Prairie Post (West Edition)

Mental Health Week was an emotional one for many

- BY RYAN DAHLMAN Ryan Dahlman is the editor of Prairie Post West and Prairie Post East

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.

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