Authors: Karen Hetherington and Geneviève Fecteau. Respectively President and Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association – Québec Division.
As we wrap up National Mental Health Week, which was launched 70 years ago by the Canadian Mental Health Association, it is important to reflect on the state of our well-being at a time when the pandemic has put us to the test in many ways.
Even within our team, we wondered how to approach promoting mental health and what message to send when we have all had enough of calls for resilience, kindness, and sacrifice. In short, we are as fed up as everyone.
In Canada, 77% of adults report feeling so-called negative emotions. The most common emotions since the beginning of the pandemic are worry or anxiety, boredom, stress, loneliness or isolation and sadness. This data is drawn from the third round of the national study entitled Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health, released by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC).
It is important to remember that unpleasant emotions are an appropriate response to significant events, such as a global pandemic. It is a sign of good mental health to be able to experience a range of emotions, and recognize, understand, and manage them, even when doing so is uncomfortable. Feeling emotions is part and parcel of the human experience. Talking about our emotions and opening up to others with authenticity and vulnerability allows us to create an emotional connection that is path to finding support from those around you.
Good mental health doesn’t mean always feeling good, but having appropriate emotional and behavioural responses to stressors and life events.
Emotional regulation is a protective factor in mental health. The pandemic has resulted in significant loss, grief, and changes in social relationships that can generate difficult emotions that need to be recognized. Naming your emotions can help settle them. During childhood, if you were told that emotions were inappropriate or unimportant, you may have learned to push them away at a young age. And when they are pushed away, emotions can intensify and even take new forms. Hiding emotions can prevent someone from communicating, forming ties, and showing empathy for difficulties their loved ones are facing.
As a result, more than ever, we need to get real about what we are feeling with loved ones, friends, and colleagues. No one should be left on their own with emotions that are too uncomfortable or too hard to deal with. If the worry, anger, sadness, or despair persist over a long period and you feel overwhelmed, if emotions are preventing you from functioning day to day, if they disrupt relationships or your ability to work or appreciate life, or if they cause you to turn to substances to cope, you should seek professional help immediately.
To get help:
Info-santé and Info-social : Dial 8-1-1
Reach Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or www.kidshelpphone.ca
Thinking of suicide? Call 1-833-456-4566 (in QC: 1-866-277-3553) or visit www.crisisservicescanada.ca.
In an emergency, please call 9-1-1 or visit your nearest emergency department.