As people in Canada continue to experience unrelenting stress and life disruption due to COVID-19, a new survey conducted by The Conference Board of Canada and the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) reveals that employment status, income level, and the availability of coping strategies are having a significant impact on mental health.
The survey, conducted between April 27 and May 15, took the pulse on mental health by asking more than 1,800 respondents to rate their level of mental health concerns based on 15 key indicators. The vast majority — 84 per cent — reported that their mental health concerns had worsened since the onset of the pandemic. Among their biggest concerns were well-being and family wellness, their personal future, isolation and loneliness, and anxiousness or fear.
“This type of insight is invaluable,” said MHCC president and CEO Louise Bradley. “We cannot address the mental health impacts of COVID-19 if we don’t understand their root causes. It’s not enough to assume that mental health has declined because of the pandemic — we need to pinpoint specifics so we can find tailored solutions.”
The MHCC has been working on resources and solutions to help Canadians take care of their mental health since the outbreak began, building and expanding on existing programs, working with experts to craft targeted and easy-to-use fact sheets, and gathering and curating useful information from across the globe. The focal point of this effort is the MHCC’s COVID-19 Resource Hub.
The survey showed that those who engaged in at least one coping strategy (perceived as beneficial) had lower mental health concern scores. Exercise and connecting with family and friends were ranked as the top social coping strategies, while telemedicine and talking to a mental health professional were the most common strategies for people seeking help.
But in addition to highlighting the need to facilitate access and understand coping strategies, the survey also signals an important role for employers in boosting the resilience of Canada’s workforce.
Dr. Bill Howatt, research chief of health at The Conference Board of Canada, says the survey findings underscore the importance that social determinants of health are having in the kinds of coping skills people pursue.
“People who experience mental duress and who have not learned or adopted healthy coping skills are more likely to engage in riskier coping activities like alcohol or drug use,” he said. “Employers can play a proactive role in providing employees access to resiliency and coping skills programs that can help them learn and master these skills.”
“This survey confirms that we must redouble our efforts to meet the mental health and wellness needs of people in this country, lest the progress we’ve made over many years erode in the face of COVID-19. Partnerships with governments, such as our support of Health Canada’s Wellness Together portal, and leading organizations such as The Conference Board of Canada, on research such as this, will help us reach people wherever they need support — at work, at home, or in the community.”
- Survey findings: How has COVID-19 impacted Canadians’ mental health?
- Backgrounder: Building Workplace Mental Health
- Managing Financial Stress Tip Sheet
Mental Health Commission of Canada
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