It’s OK to not be OK, says BGH
Brockville, ON – January 27, 2021 – The past year, as we navigate the pandemic, has been difficult in many different ways. Taking care of your mind and body are important to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The past year has taken quite the toll on everyone’s mental health and well-being,” said Elaine Senis, Outpatient Mental Health Services Manager at Brockville General Hospital (BGH).
“The virus, and the safety precautions implemented, have created an added strain on all our lives. For individuals living with mental health and addiction issues, this has been an especially tough time.”
The added stressors brought on by COVID-19 has led to more people to seek professional help.
“We have all had to shoulder so much this past year,” said Senis. “The Mental Health Crisis telephone line has seen a substantial increase in calls over the last several months, which is not surprising. Many people have lost their jobs and their sense of routine or normalcy. This comes in addition to the typical stresses from daily life. It is understandable why more people are seeking help.”
A survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association taken in September 2020, highlights that Canadians are troubled by thoughts of a loved one getting sick or dying during the second wave of COVID-19. Almost half of women (45%) and a third of men (34%) say their mental health has suffered. Because of this mental health decline, there has been a sharp increase in suicidal thoughts and a significant increase of substance abuse in Canadians.
Recognizing the signs of mental illness
It’s important to recognize the signs that a person may be struggling with their mental health, Senis continued. If a person is irritable, are not eating or sleeping well, have low moods, and have a low frustration tolerance, they may benefit from speaking to a professional.
“It can be a serious issue or it can be as simple as just needing to speak to someone outside their usual circles,” added Senis. “Having that sounding board to help examine how you are feeling can be incredibly helpful. Also, if the situation is more serious a professional can recommend the right next steps and resources.”
Tips to help you manage your own health and well-being
An important tip to help everyone is to practice self-care regularly.
“We have to be kind to each other, but most especially to ourselves, during this time,” said Dr. Kevin Varley, Chief of Psychiatry at BGH. “You have to take care of yourself if you want to be able to take care of others. Having some self-care techniques you can rely on is a great way to ‘refill your cup’ and allows you to tackle the stressors affecting your mental health.”
Common self-care techniques include walking, meditation, eating a balanced diet, getting 7-8 hours of sleep, including maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
“More than anything though we need to realize that it’s OK to not be OK some days,” added Dr. Varley. “Things have been continually changing over this past year so it’s OK, and normal, to have off-days. It is when those off-days become more common and negatively affect your daily living is when you should reach out for professional help.”
Adapting to the virtual world
As we all adapt to doing more activities virtually, those living with mental illness and receiving treatment are facing an unintended barrier in virtual care.
“For the safety of our clients and staff, our team members meet with our clients virtually, either through video conferencing or over the phone,” explained Janet Cooper, Team Lead, Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team. “While this is necessary for everyone’s safety, meeting virtually creates another barrier, and the longer the pandemic goes on the more we are seeing ‘virtual fatigue’ with our clients.”
Virtual fatigue, Janet explains, comes from the loss of social connection found when meeting in-person. Though you can still see and hear the other person in a virtual call, there is an intangible missing component, which makes inter-personal connection difficult. In addition, sitting for long periods in front of a screen can be physically detrimental, putting added strain on your neck, back, and eyes.
“Maintaining those social connections is absolutely vital,” added Cooper. “COVID-19 is like a marathon where we can’t see the finish line. But that finish line exists, so we have to take care of our mental and physical health until we get there.”
Available mental health services
BGH’s Mental Health program has several services and resources available to the Leeds Grenville community. Learn more by visiting www.brockvillegeneralhospital.ca/MentalHealth.
For children’s mental health needs (16 and under), please contact Children’s Mental Health of Leeds and Grenville at www.cmhlg.ca or call 1-800-809-2494.
If you or a loved one are in crisis, call the Mental Health Crisis line at 613-345-4600 (toll free at 1-866-281-2911). For persons without phone access, or in immediate need of help, please go to your closest Emergency Department.
Canadian Mental Health Association, Summary of Findings Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19: Wave 2