Nova Scotians are most likely to experience high levels of anxiety and depression since the COVID-19 pandemic began country-wide, according to a report released Friday by Mental Health Research Canada.
Testing was conducted in April and again in August.
Prior to the pandemic, the report says, six per cent Nova Scotians reported experiencing high levels of anxiety. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the number has grown to 27 per cent.
High levels of depression during the pandemic were reported by 16 per cent Nova Scotians, up from seven per cent pre-pandemic.
Elsewhere, Albertans experiencing high depression levels tied with Nova Scotia, while those experiencing anxiety in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador tied at second at 25 per cent.
Canada-wide, the survey report says anxiety levels quadrupled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pre-pandemic, about five per cent of Canadians reported experiencing high levels anxiety. The number jumped to 20 per cent after the outbreak and remains that high.
The report says the number of Canadians experiencing depression has doubled during COVID-19, to 13 per cent from six per cent pre-pandemic.
It says the removal of COVID-19 restrictions has not shown to improve levels of depression and anxiety.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has meant that many Canadians have lost access to mental health supports,” MHRC said in the report.
Access to counselling has declined by one-half, it says.
However, the report says Canadians are now more likely to be optimistic about their mental health if isolation continues.
The number of Canadians expecting to have high anxiety levels after two months of isolation dropped to 14 per cent from 22 per cent at the start of the pandemic.
Nova Scotians, on the other hand, are most likely to expect anxiety and depression levels to be high if the isolation measures continue for two more months.
However, the report says Atlantic Canadians, alongside Quebecers, feel most confident in “their ability to bounce back” from the challenges of the pandemic — 20 per cent compared to a national rate of 17 per cent.
According to the report, a decline in mental health is noticeably related to economic-related stress.
“A quarter of Canadians say that the possibility of not paying bills… is having a negative impact on mental health.”
High anxiety levels likely remain as Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit fund came to an end last week.
It is also related to the stress of catching the virus and concern for others.
“Canadians remain most concerned about family members, with one-half reporting that their concern for family continues to have a negative impact on their mental health,” MHRC says in the report.
Moreover, MHRC found that stress related to family and personal relationships has also increased during the pandemic.
“In the early stages of the outbreak, Canadians reported that communication with friends/family outside and inside the home had a positive impact on mental health, but now one-fifth… report such interactions as having a negative impact,” the report says.
In addition, more Canadian teachers report experiencing high levels of anxiety during the pandemic than the national average.
At 25 per cent, the number of teachers reporting mental health issues has increased by 500 per cent since the pandemic began, the report says.
In Nova Scotia, many teachers spoke out about their stress and anxiety prior to school reopening last month.
Complaints included a lack of transparency from the government in its back-to-school plan. Teachers said they feared for the safety of students as well as for their own families.
The MHRC report found that nation-wide more than 44 per cent of teachers are concerned about catching COVID-19 and one-half “feel the negative impact of social isolation on their mental health.” While the extent of support received by teachers is higher than the national average, access to mental health support has decreased for teachers during the pandemic.
In addition, the report says over half Canadians diagnosed with a mood or mental disorder diagnosis choose prescription medication as a way to manage it.
MHRC says a similar poll will be conducted in again mid-October to find out if numbers will continue to rise as Canadians enter a second wave of COVID-19.