Two years into pandemic, mental health of Manitobans remains major concern

On top of the illness and death brought on by COVID-19, experts note there’s been a significant impact on people’s mental health.

Painting has become a passion for Rachel Tiltman.

She picked it up during the COVID-19 pandemic — one of many things that have changed for her amid the challenges Manitobans have faced over the past two years.

“So many things have happened in my life since it started that I can’t believe that I am where I am now,” Tiltman said.

In early 2020 Tiltman’s dad suffered a stroke and two other close family members fell ill — all three ended up in hospital.

She was working full time while caring for her father when the pandemic hit.

“Everything was pushing down more and more and more on me without me even realizing it,” Tiltman said.

In January 2021 while working from home one day, Tiltman started having trouble concentrating, breathing and became dizzy.

She ended up in an emergency room with anxiety. She returned to work but ended up in the ER again around a month later.

After she went on sick leave, both Tiltman and her husband contracted COVID-19 in April 2021 before vaccines were widely available to all Manitobans.

“We were both very, very ill,” Tiltman said.

Caprice Kehler, trauma response team lead at NorWest Co-op Community Health, said the difficulties of working and living amid a global pandemic have added extra layers of stress in people’s lives.

“People have been facing a lot of grief and a lot of loss,” Kehler said. “So loss of control of their lives, loss of people due to the pandemic, a loss of connection with other people.”

Marion Cooper, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association, said an amplified level of stress has resulted in a greater demand for mental health services.

“Higher rates of depression and anxiety are certainly trends that we’ve seen,” Cooper said. “People reaching out for support has been on the rise.”

Tiltman was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder and continues to live with anxiety. In addition to painting, writing and crocheting have become new passions she has more time to focus on.

The silver lining in what has been a challenging and difficult past two years.

“I don’t know what’ll come of it but I’m just grateful to have that chance to really explore that side of me that I kind of always knew was there but was too tired to really do anything with,” Tiltman said .

Experts said with provincial public health measures ending next week, new challenges will arise.

They said it’s important Manitobans be patient and supportive of each other as people find their way through this next phase of the pandemic.

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