Organizations share importance of mental health during COVID-19 outbreak
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
In the midst of unusual times filled with social-distancing, isolation, and quarantine, organizations are stressing the importance of taking care of your mental health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) shares on their website that feeling stressed is a normal response, given the circumstances, but there are ways to help manage stress, anxiety, and fear.
“It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or angry during a crisis. Talking to people you trust can help. Contact your friends and family… If you must stay at home, maintain a healthy lifestyle - including proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contacts with loved ones at home and by email and phone with other family and friends,” according to www.who.int.
Karen Ingebrigtson, CEO of FIREFLY, confirmed that exercise, along with routine and structure, can improve mental health in both adults and children.
“There’s very practical kinds of things that we can do that help… Putting structure back in the day. If you got up usually at seven or eight o’clock in the morning, then get up at that time. If you had a certain ritual in the morning, whether that’s having a cup of coffee or whatever, make sure you take time for that… Children need routine, and I would argue that adults need the same… This is obviously going to go on for a while, so put structure in your day. That will really help your mental health, and it will really help your kids,” said Ingebrigtson.
“Another really important piece is sleeping, eating, and exercise however you can get access. I’m noticing all kinds of things people are putting up on YouTube like you can do a yoga class, Zumba, or whatever it is that you might like to do. Walking is great, but also inside your house there are different things. Just get your body going because all the data shows that exercising really helps to regulate mood. It’s obviously good for your heart, but it’s good for your mind too.
“Know what the requirements are from the public health perspective, but that shouldn’t stop you from putting your head outdoors. Even if you need to be staying around your own place, sit on the doorstep for a bit outside because getting that outside perspective, I think, is good,” she explained.
The Municipality of Sioux Lookout acknowledged the benefits, both mentally and physically, of getting exercise. They encouraged residents to get exercise during this time while taking necessary safety precautions.
“Based on the advice of mental health experts, physical activity, including walking, is an important strategy for dealing with stress and related ailments. Exercise can be a useful anxiety mitigation technique for many people, as we are all experiencing heightened levels of stress and anxiety during these uncertain times. Therefore, the Municipality encourages residents to get some exercise throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis, but to do so while following the directions of public health officials, especially regarding physical distancing,” said Brian MacKinnon, Sioux Lookout Municipal Clerk.
In a media release on April 2 the Government of Ontario announced increased mental health support during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Ontario government is making it easier for everyone, especially those on the front lines, to reach out for mental health support during the COVID-19 outbreak. To improve access, the province is providing emergency funding of up to $12 million to immediately expand online and virtual mental health supports and $2.6 million to hire new psychologists and other mental health workers to support Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) personnel,” the release states.
“These services will help people experiencing anxiety, stress and other mental health challenges, including people who are unable to access their regular in-person counselling supports. These resources will address the needs of youth and adults and will include more dedicated supports for those working on the frontlines who are dealing with the difficult realities of COVID-19 every single day.
“With this investment, mental health agencies will receive emergency funding to hire and train more staff and purchase necessary equipment, appropriate technology and additional licenses. The emergency funding will immediately expand services, based on evidence-informed cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), on a range of platforms including:
• BounceBack: A guided self-help program for adults and youth aged 15 and over using workbooks with online videos and phone coaching support.
• Kids Help Phone: 24/7 virtual support service offering professional counselling, information and referrals as well as volunteer-led, text-based support to young people in both English and French at 1-800-668-6868.
• Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT): Online CBT, supported by therapists; available in English and French.
• iCBT for frontline health care workers: Online CBT targeted at frontline health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout or PTSD. Those requiring intensive levels of care could be referred to virtual face-to-face care.
• Training for Brief CBT-based interventions: Training will be provided to frontline workers in organizations such as Telehealth and emergency departments in order to better support individuals experiencing acute anxiety due to the pandemic.
“The funding will help the OPP hire mental health workers who will:
• Provide clinical services to members of all ranks and make referrals to external services if needed;
• Develop and deliver mental health support programming specific to unique policing needs (e.g. geographical, specialized services, cultural);
• Facilitate educational programs to both uniform and civilian members to reduce stigma and promote resiliency and access to help when facing mental health challenges; and
• Provide guidance in peer support programs,” the release further explains.
For more information, visit covid-19.ontario.ca or nwhu.on.ca/covid19.