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Coronavirus: Toronto professor creates free online course to manage mental health

Coronavirus outbreak: Toronto course aims to improve mental health amid COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH: Toronto course aims to improve mental health amid COVID-19 pandemic

People concerned about their mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic can now turn to several Toronto-based online resources to cope.

Walking through a near-empty Yonge-Dundas Square in one of his first outings since physical distancing measures went into effect, Connor Rose tried to find some normalcy at an abnormal time.

“Even my family is scared to hug me and stuff, so I’ve been lonely in that sense but otherwise I’m doing fine.”

While Rose insisted he is mostly adjusting, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic is a source of anxiety and depression to many, according to Steven Joordens, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

“To really feel better and to really manage your anxiety, I think it’s really important to really understand what it is, how it comes about,” he said.

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Joordens launched a free online course on the Coursera platform this weekend to help participants manage their mental health while many deal with increased isolation and the loss of normal professional interactions.

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“We have to kind of rediscover the other side of us,” he explained.

“We have to discover our family side if we’re a family person or whatever is. So there’s a loss of the structure but also a loss of a chunk of us.”

One goal of the course, Joordens said, is to prevent anxiety from crossing the line into depression.

“That’s the really scary one,” he said. “Anxiety is something you can manage and be very productive. Depression is really scary. That’s when people give up.”

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Another online tool available — also free — are calming webinars offered by the Toronto-based The Anger Managers clinic.

The sessions aim to help those who sign up navigate the emotional uncertainty of the virus.

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“We don’t know what the future is going to look like, what today is going to bring,” said Jessica Adams, who founded the clinic.

“Your stress has your glass completely full and then something else comes along and you break down.”

As Connor Rose adapts to the freedoms he has lost for now, he finds purpose in the reasoning behind it.

“It kind of sucks but, I mean, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do, right, to prevent the spread.”