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Coronavirus: Canadians struggling with mental health during pandemic

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For weeks Canadians have been hunkered down in their homes, trying to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

But for many people, being alone and isolated is taking a major toll on their mental health and lifelong struggles.

“Being isolated, being depressed, being alone — you start waking up and it just becomes Groundhog Day,” Jennifer Thomson said.

“Every day is mundane. It’s the same.”

READ MORE: Canada needs a free support program to fight COVID-19 mental health crisis, doctors say

Thomson struggled with an eating disorder in her early 20s and said she has always turned to food as a comfort. It was a disorder that became debilitating and forced her to move back home to Vancouver to get help.

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“I ended up having to quit my job. I moved home lived with my parents again,” she said.

“I had to give up my whole career and go back to working retail jobs and things I left behind.”

For Thomson, it took years, but she finally got her disorder under control. Then in March, when the pandemic hit and everyone was forced to stay home, her disorder began creeping back.

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According to Statistics Canada, approximately one million Canadians have some form of an eating disorder.

“When you have a mental health issue and you’re all by yourself… you’re just with your demons all the time and you have no where else beyond your four walls that are your distractions,” she said.

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An Angus Reid report published this week found half of all people surveyed said their mental health has worsened over the past month a half.

“I have a lifelong struggle with eating and mental health,” Sophie Gray told Global News.

Gray, who lives in Edmonton, said when she was younger she struggled with obsessive exercising and an unhealthy relationship with food, exercise and herself.

“When I was younger I self-harmed” she said.

“I like to think of myself as someone who is in recovery from my eating disorder, although I think there’s always elements that stay with you.”

READ MORE: Our mental health won’t be the same after coronavirus pandemic, experts say

Gray said when the pandemic hit and online workouts and classes became more prevalent on social media, her anxiety and her past struggles began to resurface.

“I was being inundated with talk of diet culture and exercise,” she said.

“The people who were struggling in silence or maybe previously struggling or still struggling currently with diet or exercise obsession, it put everything in front of their minds and it was hard to ignore.”

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Over the years, Gray has turned to therapeutic journalling to help her get through the hard times.

Gray started her own journalling app called ‘Divethru’ which she’s used to help her.

During the pandemic, she made the app free for everyone, in the hope that it could help.

“It can be really therapeutic and really helpful,” she said. “What journalling allows you to do is to get your thoughts out on paper and see them for what they are. You can start to notice your own patterns, your own behaviours.”

She hopes it can help others who are struggling find a light at the end of the tunnel.