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COVID-19: Okanagan mental health professionals discuss Omicron’s psychological impact

Click to play video: 'Omicron taking a toll on mental health' Omicron taking a toll on mental health
Omicron taking a toll on mental health – Dec 23, 2021

This year the holiday cheer has been cooled by concerns about the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

Some psychotherapists say this latest wave of the pandemic is having an impact on mental health.

“It is causing a great deal of difficultly,” said Kelowna psychologist Heather McEachern.

“There is already stress and fatigue and the Omicron is just that next layer and level.”

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McEachern says that’s translating into more demand for mental health services.

“People are fatigued, stressed, frightened. People that were vaccinated are now frightened that they could get sick. They felt more protection prior to Omicron. Now they feel that level of fear heightened again,” McEachern said.

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The Interior Crisis Line Network, which answers calls from around the Interior Health region, has also been seeing an increase in demand lately which is unusual over the holidays.

“We are definitely seeing more people calling in which, for us, we view as a real positive. It means that people are reaching out for support, they are reaching out to connect, they are reaching out for resources,” said Asha Croggon, the director of the Interior Crisis Line Network.

Read more: Omicron, holidays a ‘perfect storm’ for stress and anxiety. Here’s how to cope

As Omicron surges forward, Groggon suggests people reassess their coping strategies.

“If you find that they are just not working for you anymore, it might be because they were more numbing coping strategies as opposed to nourishing ones.

“For example, there may [have been] a time that doom scrolling and going through your social media feed perhaps helped for a little bit, but what we are finding is it’s not really helping people anymore so it might be useful to pivot to something else like actually choose one friend and reach out to them,” Croggon said.
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Another expert tip for this pandemic holiday season: try to be flexible.

“Adapt, adapt, adapt. That is going to be key to reducing your stress. If you are fighting the recommendations, if you are angered, if you are frustrated, if you are resentful, that is going to agitate you further,” McEachern said.

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If you are looking for support, the Interior Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-888-353-2273.

It expects to answer around 36,000 calls this year, roughly double what was typical pre-pandemic.

Click to play video: 'B.C. breaks another record with more than 2,000 COVID cases' B.C. breaks another record with more than 2,000 COVID cases
B.C. breaks another record with more than 2,000 COVID cases – Dec 23, 2021

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