CMHA and UBC release data on emotional impact of the pandemic for Mental Health Week
Fifty-five per cent of adults in Nova Scotia report feeling so-called negative emotions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is according to the third round of data from the Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health national monitoring survey released today by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with UBC researchers to mark CMHA’s 70th annual Mental Health Week.
According to the survey, the most common responses across the province were ‘worried or anxious,’ ‘stressed,’ ‘lonely or isolated’ and ‘sad’.
“While it’s discouraging to think that so many Canadians are feeling upset, difficult emotions may actually be an appropriate response to a major event like a global pandemic,” says Patricia Murray, Interim Executive Director of CMHA Nova Scotia. “It’s a sign of good mental health when someone can experience a full range of emotions, and recognize, understand and manage how they feel—even when it’s uncomfortable.”
Research shows that the act of naming our emotions can actually help us feel calmer and help us understand what we’re going through. That’s why the theme of Mental Health Week this year is understanding our emotions.
“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. “Sharing our very normal feelings of sadness, fear and worry is particularly important during this unusual time of stress, uncertainty and loss.”
However, it is important to know when anxious feelings become a cause for concern. Feeling anxious is not the same as having a diagnosed anxiety disorder, but our emotions give us clues to how we’re really doing. Indeed, those experiencing the most challenging emotions related to the pandemic were also the most likely to report a decline in their mental health, as well as suicidal thoughts.
“It’s time to seek help if you are feeling overwhelmed for prolonged periods of time or have persistent feelings of worry, anger or despair,” adds Anne Gadermann, co-lead researcher and professor at the School of Population and Public Health, UBC.
“Or, if challenging emotions are interrupting your daily functioning, negatively impacting your relationships, your ability to work or enjoy life or causing you to rely on substances to cope. If you are having thoughts or feelings of suicide, you should seek help for your mental health.”
The focus of this year’s Mental Health Week is to promote the importance of emotions and the role that understanding them plays in good mental health.
About the data
The survey was dispatched by Maru/Matchbox in late January, 2021 to a representative sample of 3,034 people ages 18 and up living in Canada. It is the third round of a national monitoring survey that is also aligned with work being conducted by the Mental Health Foundation in the U.K.
Canadian Mental Health Associations in Nova Scotia are the oldest community-based mental health and addictions charitable organizations in the province. Founded in 1908, the CMHA NS Division provides provincial leadership for mental health in Nova Scotia, with the support of staff situated in communities throughout the province who provide non-clinical, community-based mental health and addictions supports, services and programs in Annapolis-Digby County, Yarmouth-South West Nova, Lunenburg-Queens County, Halifax-Dartmouth, Kings County, Colchester East Hants County and Cape Breton.
If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact your local CMHA or visit the Government of Canada’s Wellness Together portal. If you are in crisis, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free in Canada (1-866-277-3553 in Quebec) or dial 911.
To get involved with Mental Health Week, you can:
Learn more about mental health and emotions at www.mentalhealthweek.ca
Share your support on social media by downloading a toolkit and using hashtags #GetReal and #MentalHealthWeek
Donate to support CMHA mental health programs and services HERE
The Emotional toll of the pandemic on Atlantic Canadians
- 5% of Canadians residing in the Atlantic region reported recently experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings
- 48% are walking or exercising outdoors, 43% are connecting with family and friends virtually, 41% are maintaining a healthy lifestyle, 43% are keeping up to date with relevant information and 34% are doing a hobby.
- 53% have increased their screen time, 29% are consuming more food, 19% are doing more online shopping for things they don’t need.
- 16% are using more substances like drugs and alcohol to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. On a societal level, factors that promote well-being include big-picture things like social and economic security, freedom from violence, harm and trauma, and access to mental health resources, but our mental health system has seen decades of chronic underfunding.
- On an individual level, factors that promote well-being include making healthier choices daily, connecting with loved ones and learning more about ourselves.
When we understand and work with our emotions, this helps protect our mental health— during tough times like the pandemic and throughout all the ups and downs of life.
Erin Christie (She/Her/Elle)