By GREG KYLLO
THIS WEEK WE MARKED Bell Let’s Talk Day, which raises awareness of mental health issues as well as funds for mental health initiatives across Canada. But our focus on mental health doesn’t need to be restricted to one day. In fact, it’s something that a lot of us are thinking about on a near-daily basis due to the difficult challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the pandemic drags on for a third calendar year, it continues to affect us in a number of ways — not just physically, if we happen to contract the virus, but mentally as well.
I’m thinking about the business owners who are worried they can’t keep their doors open for much longer.
Or the workers who are stressed about how many shifts they might have left. Or the nervous parents who drop their kids off at school or daycare with a knot in their stomach each day. Or the healthcare workers dreading another overwhelming, draining day of work. Or the seniors in long-term care who are lonely without their usual visitors and activities.
The list goes on and on.
The pandemic has also put additional stress on those who lived with mental health issues long before the virus arrived. Here in B.C., those seeking mental health supports and resources often face long waitlists for care. COVID-19 has only exacerbated those challenges, making it harder for people to access the help they need.
It’s why we continue to press the government to invest in a seamless mental health and addictions system that eliminates barriers and ensures people get the help they need when they need it.
The pandemic has also led to more isolation and fewer social connections which is putting additional strain on all of us but particularly those living with depression and anxiety.
Despite the lack of physical opportunities to be together, there are other ways we can show up for those who are struggling. Pick up the phone or send an email or text to friends or family, and be a good listener if they’re needing to talk.
Ask if there is a safe way for you to offer some help, whether it’s a distanced walk outside or dropping off something they need or something that will make them smile. A small, simple gesture that shows you’re there for them can make a big difference.
We all have a lot on our plates and a lot on our minds right now. But it’s worth taking the time to reflect on how we’re feeling, ask for help if we need it, and continue to reach out to those who may be having a hard time.
Let’s take our mental health as seriously as we take our physical health.
Greg Kyllo was elected as the MLA for Shuswap in 2013, 2017 and re-elected in 2020. He serves as Official Opposition critic for Labour.