Southern Albertans dealing with ‘mental toll’ as COVID-19 continues

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 restrictions taking ‘mental toll’ on southern Albertans'
COVID-19 restrictions taking ‘mental toll’ on southern Albertans
WATCH ABOVE: With this week being Canadian Mental Health Week, experts are highlighting the conversation around mental health as the COVID-19 pandemic continues on. Eloise Therien has more on what Albertans are struggling with and why seeking help is important – May 5, 2021

This week marked the annual Canadian Mental Health Week, and as the COVID-19 pandemic continues on, so does the need for supports.

David Gabert, a southern Alberta communications lead with the Canadian Mental Health Association, said the pandemic has shed light on the importance of making mental health supports readily available.

“One of the things that the pandemic has really highlighted is our need for letting people know where help is and how to easily access it without a barrier,” he explained.

According to data collected by the University of B.C. and CMHA, the mental health of 40 per cent of Canadians has “deteriorated” since the onset of the pandemic, and 77 per cent of adults report feeling so-called negative emotions as a result of COVID-19.

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“From my work perspective, it’s getting busier,” said Lethbridge psychologist Chelsea Bodie.

“I think people are feeling a little bit more overwhelmed, feeling a little bit more stressed. They’re looking for different ways to get support.”

With new COVID-19 restrictions announced in Alberta on Tuesday, restaurant owners who were previously told patio services could remain are once again limited to take-out.

The owner of Hickory Street, a restaurant and food truck based in Stirling, Alta., scrambled to build a patio space just in time to be told she couldn’t use it.

“It was like a punch in the gut when the government said we had to close it yesterday,” said owner Devynn Bohn.

She added that the continued changes with COVID-19 health measures are negatively impacting her mental health.

“It stresses me out, and I’m actually somebody that doesn’t get stressed very easily, so it has taken a mental toll while I worry about others and all of my staff,” Bohn said.

Click to play video: 'Mental health tips for young people struggling with burnout'
Mental health tips for young people struggling with burnout

Dr. Cheryl Currie, a professor of public health at the University of Lethbridge, conducted a study that saw more Albertans turn to alcohol and cannabis as a way to cope with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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“So many of them were struggling during the pandemic with PTSD-related directly to the pandemic, and substance use increases,” Currie explained. “Fifty per cent of those said they were struggling with those issues, said they needed help.”

Currie added the highest levels of PTSD symptoms were found in those who felt most physically threatened by COVID-19. The second-highest levels were found in individuals aged 18-25.

“I think what’s happening with many young adults, the financial and the social repercussions are so extreme compared to the older adults.”

While reaching out may seem daunting, Gabert said there are many ways to seek help.

“If you are feeling stressed, if you are feeling sad, if you’re angry, if you’re feeling like you need to reach out, follow through with those impulses,” he urged.

“Reach out, whether it’s to the distress line, whether it’s through community links to try and find resources, or whether it’s through somebody you know and trust and is already in your network.”

Canadian Mental Health Week is in its 70th year.

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