Canadian Mental Health Association Week which was observed from May 3-9 had themes and messages such as “Name it, don’t numb it” and “#GetReal about how you feel.”

In Alberta, it got real. 

There are a lot of hurting people out there. Just within my own realm, I know of three groups of families who lost a loved one because of their loss of a mental health battle.

The frustration is growing with new Covid-19 rules being implemented by the provincial government. Social media was full of finger pointing as everyone, no matter what side of the fence residents are on in regards to Covid-19 regulations, vaccinations and all of the residual affects such as the extreme and dangerous pressure on the health care system and its grossly overtaxed workers, the tremendous pain caused with interrupted families and relationships, economic hardships, the interruption of daily life, the price those young students and teachers in the education system have to pay with interrupted learning routines and activities but also the toll it takes on the overall mental health.  

Push back to all the rules in the smallest of forms such as not wearing a mask when people should in a store or visiting people when they shouldn’t, all the way to large gatherings such as parties and protests are all signs of trauma and weakening mental health. 

There have been a lot more expressions of frustration, sadness depression and anguish because of the pandemic.  

The CMHA released “Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health” national monitoring survey last week and it indicated the emotional toll on people in Canada, “as 77% of adults report feeling so-called negative emotions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The five most common responses across Canada were ‘worried or anxious,’ ‘bored,’ ‘stressed,’ ‘lonely or isolated’ and ‘sad’.”

“Good mental health is not about being happy all the time but having appropriate emotional and behavioural responses to stressors and life events,” says lead researcher Emily Jenkins, a professor of nursing at UBC who studies mental health and substance use. The pandemic has caused significant loss—of loved ones, of connection, of feelings of security. This can contribute to very challenging emotions that are important to acknowledge and process. Hiding your emotions can prevent you from communicating with other people in your life and empathizing with what loved ones are going through. Sharing our very normal feelings of sadness, fear and worry is particularly important during this unusual time of stress, uncertainty and loss.”

Trouble is in Saskatchewan, but mores Alberta, there is a prevailing “lone independent wolf” attitude where when government has asked for restraint and patience when it comes to social distancing and wearing masks for example. Despite all the evidence and the news and photos of overwhelmed nurses and physicians and ordinarily healthy people on ventilators … people are still not believing or fearing the vaccines.

All of it is either rooted in, a sign of, or the beginning of the deterioration of mental health. 

Somehow the stigma has to be completely eliminated of mental health being something feared, ostracized or ignored. Not if, but when, this pandemic is over, there will be a lot of battered people who need to repair, rebuild and reload. 

And oh yeah, “get real about how they feel.” Work needs to be done now bu government so that agencies and mental health professionals have the staff and the tools they need so that there will be some place to go for those who need assistance. Confidence in the system needs to be created so people can build confidence in themselves and for their futures. 

Ryan Dahlman is the editor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East

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