The lockdown restrictions have eased and many of us are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, so why are we still fighting?
A survey of 3,010 Canadians by Mental Health Research Canada found that despite some positive signs around COVID-19 this summer, our greatest pandemic anxiety remains.
In the Canadian survey conducted August 17-21, MHRC found that self-reported levels of anxiety and depression have not decreased. The survey, released on wednesday, is the eighth MHRC since the pandemic began and the first to take place at a time when most Canadians are vaccinated.
“[Anxiety] for people it hasn’t really changed because the situation hasn’t really changed for a lot of people, ”said Michael Cooper, vice president of development for the national research charity. He added that fear of the virus, as well as economic uncertainty, remain the reality for many Canadians.
Most Canadians remain resilient, but the most recent data shows that feelings of anxiety are similar to those in early June, where 24 percent of Canadians reported high levels of anxiety. Rates of depression have also remained constant compared to earlier this year, hovering around 16 percent. These symptoms continue to dramatically affect the daily lives of one in three Canadians, who said their deteriorating mental health has affected their ability to function.
These results may come as a surprise to some, as it was thought that easing restrictions and increasing protections in the form of vaccines would provide Canadians with peace of mind along with the possibility of seeing loved ones again. But Cooper said the survey results show that just because government restrictions have been relaxed doesn’t mean Canadians have let their guard down when it comes to COVID-19.
“I think a lot of people don’t see the same amount of people that they did before,” Cooper said.
“Regardless of whether those restrictions exist or not, they are still not returning to their normal lives. They are still reminded every time they go out that they have to wear a mask, and they still keep that mental armor, “he added.
The results showed that vaccinated Canadians still fear COVID-19, with 75 percent saying they are concerned about the continued threat of the virus. However, this contrasts with the fear that unvaccinated people have about the possible reestablishment of the lockdowns, with 28 percent saying they predict they will experience high levels of anxiety if the restrictions are reintroduced.
Since the last MHRC survey was conducted, case counts have risen steadily in Ontario amid the fourth wave, from a seven-day average of 534 cases on Aug. 21 to an average of 710 on Sept. 21. Cooper said MHRC continues to monitor the mental health of Canadians through a series of upcoming surveys.
As of August, diagnoses of mood disorders among Canadians have risen, the latest survey found, especially among young people ages 18 to 34, 34 percent of whom say they have been battling increased anxiety. since the pandemic began. A quarter of Canadians say they have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and front-line healthcare workers are especially affected, with 31 percent reporting that they have been diagnosed with depression.
Suicidal thoughts among the youngest have also increased: 24 percent say they have reflected on suicide and 6 percent say they have tried. Regardless of age, suicidal ideation is at its highest since April 2021, with 14 percent of Canadians reporting that they had thought about it, compared to 12 percent earlier this year. Rates are highest among Canadians who identify as LGBTQ +, the survey found.
“I think there are specific groups here that we need to pay more attention to,” Cooper said. “Our hypothesis is that some groups require more interactions with friends, compared to the connections we get from family.”
The good news, Cooper said, is that more Canadians are seeking mental health help. Before COVID-19, 12 percent of Canadians accessed mental health support. Since then, that number has risen to 20%, and half of the people who have sought support during the pandemic continue to do so. About three-quarters of those who had access to the aid say they are happy with the support they have received.
Virtual mental health support through video chat with a psychologist, counselor or psychiatrist has increased the most. For Cooper, this suggests the need to ensure that these resources remain in place as the pandemic progresses, and that policy makers must continue to fund virtual mental health care and work toward destigmatizing the use of those services, while They understand that for others, face to face. -Facial support is still a better option.
Cooper added that the results indicate that a mental health pandemic is brewing, especially among frontline healthcare workers, and that indicates the need to ensure that support is available to them.
“The key message here is that we will not have a full recovery until we have a mental health recovery,” Cooper said of the findings.
If you are thinking about suicide or know someone who is, there is help. Resources are available online at crisisservicescanada.ca Or you can connect to the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-833-456-4566, or the Children’s Helpline at 1-800-668-6868.