THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MENTAL HEALTH AND A PANDEMIC 

 

Last week, we touched upon some key differences between mental health and mental illnesses. To recap, it is very possible to be experiencing low mental health and there are many ways by which we can actively turn that around into better mental health, within the same day. On the other hand, if living with a mental illness, recovery is most definitely within reach for all of us, should we choose to seek help by reaching out.

Last week, we also briefly talked about the fact that those living with a mental illness are never alone – it is more common that you think. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, individuals who were already experiencing poor mental health pre-COVID were impacted even more by the pandemic – mainly those from the youth, LGBTQ and visible minority groups. The LGBTQ surveyors attributed to these results were younger in age and among gender diverse individuals, more likely to be extremely concerned about the potential impacts of COVID-19, and at a greater likelihood of job loss and inadequate financial resources.

Among visible minority groups, 44% of South Asian, 38% of Black and 36% of Filipino surveyors reported “fair” or “poor” self-rated mental health symptoms with “moderate” or “severe” General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). To make matters worse, Statistics Canada observed that those reporting poor mental health were up to four times more likely to report increased substance use, including but not limited to Cannabis intake and heavy drinking behaviours.

In the United States of America, as per Mental Health First Aid USA, mental health has steadily been getting worse among all age groups. Around the summer of 2020, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use, while one in six youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. While these numbers could be rising due to many factors during the pandemic, one that stood out was the fact that many people are not receiving the treatment they deserve, even with all measures set in place by the government to help its residents. The cost alone to treat depression in the United States is about $210.5 billion annually.

As the pandemic led to so many job losses and financial strain, the need for cost effective support has become incredibly important.

At Reach Out Together, our priority is not only to pool in all of our resources and try to bring that number down, but also to actively educate everyone within our network so that we can prevent that number from growing. It is not easy task, but a challenge we have chosen to take up wholeheartedly.

Last month, we hosted a Frontline Mental Health 2-Day Bootcamp Training which, as stated on our website, aims to equip people with the necessary tools required to respond to someone in distress or a crisis situation. By introducing participants to ‘Psychological Fist Aid’, the training assures to provide frontline mental health workers or community advocates with basic knowledge and skills to help people affected by the crisis in their lives.

The Frontline Mental Health Training is hosted once every quarter by our founder and CEO, Aanchal Vashistha. A certified Canfield trainer, Vashistha swears by the program to “help others recognize positive and negative signs of mental health so that they’re equipped to respond when a family member, friend, colleague, or someone they know is in crisis.”

In addition to events, Reach Out Together also conducts various programs to provide ongoing long-term support to anyone who needs it. One such initiative is the Team Together Program – a 21-day interactive program, that aims to create a community of members supporting each other in their journey to wellbeing. This program is completely free of cost and very much the need of the hour considering how isolated most of us have had to become due to the coronavirus. The goal in this support program is to rewire the brain from stress, trauma, anxiety or depression to an overall recovery.

For more information on Reach Out Together’s mental health events and programs, visit reachouttogether.com