This year’s Mental Health Week is celebrated from May 3 to 9 and this will mark 70 years that the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) has celebrated and hosted Mental Health Week.
The Kenora Rainy River District Mental Health and Addiction Directors Network sponsored a virtual night of comedy with Big Daddy Tazz on Monday night to kick off the week.
Alastair Greig, community support team lead at the CMHA Fort Frances branch, said unfortunately due to the current provincial stay-at-home order, a lot of their planned community outreach is unable to take place.
Greig said they will be reaching out to the community through the delivery of care packages in Fort Frances, Dryden, Kenora and as well as recognizing some of the community partners who are integral to the support of their clients.
CMHA will also be hosting a number of Zoom events for their clients and members such as a book club and bingo so they can stay connected during the stay-at-home order.
“We understand that with the effects of that pandemic those that are already suffering from extreme emotional distress are going to report a larger decline in mental health and even reports of self-harm so we’re really trying to stay connected with our clients,” Greig said.
Although the CMHA office is closed to the public, Greig emphasized that they are still continuing to provide services.
“Mental health week is not just limited to those that have a serious mental illness. It’s for everyone,” Greig said. “It’s really for people to have that reflection on themselves and see what they’re feeling and how they’re coping with it.”
While this is an exciting week for CMHA, it has not been without difficulty as the COVID-19 pandemic has seen the need for their services increase, forcing CMHA to find creative ways to deliver services.
“With a lot of individuals in the community either suffering from a dementia process or serious mental illness, our counsellors are able to invest in iPads,” Greig said. “What we do is we arrange for a contactless pickup to deliver an iPad to a person in their home, we have it preloaded for them to actually FaceTime with a worker.
They have also moved to phone consultations and meet with clients in office, which is arranged ahead of time to continue to have those connections in person, Greig added.
Greig said the social distancing aspect that comes with the physical distancing has been hard and no one has really been able to escape the emotional toll of it.
“New research from CMHA and the University of British Columbia found that eight out of 10 Canadians are reporting feelings of being worried, bored, stressed, lonely or sad. It is apparent and we’re seeing a lot of Canadians are not getting the mental health they need and they’re kind of relying on a combination of healthy and unhealthy strategies to cope with the pandemic,” Greig said.
Some healthy coping strategies include exercising while unhealthy coping strategies can include online shopping beyond one’s means as well as increased substance use.
This year, CMHA is promoting #GetReal about how you feel, and it is all about naming your emotions and not numbing them.
“If you’re having these negative emotions, that’s not necessarily a bad thing given the current environment but it’s how we recognize and respond to these feelings that matters,” Greig said. “It’s important to invest in your own well-being so doing healthy coping mechanisms like exercise and recognizing that substance use might not be the right thing for you.”
The topic of mental health has changed drastically over the course of 70 years, something Greig said he is grateful for.
As mental health is continuing to be a more accepting topic of discussion, Greig said CMHA is continuing to adapt their services to meet those needs.
“We really want people to know that there’s help out there,” Greig said. “It’s when you have those really overwhelming prolonged periods that are persistent and all your positive coping strategies aren’t working, and you have those feelings of worry, anger, despair, seek help no matter what.”
This celebration may only be a week-long, but the discussion on mental health continues year round.