Seventy-four per cent of Albertans feel their mental health has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent government survey suggests. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

COVID-19’s ‘collateral damage’ will be our mental health

Numerous programs exist to help Alberni Valley residents

The mental health of our country is considered the “collateral damage” of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Whether you are feeling stuck at home, or separated from other people, this pandemic has been difficult for all of us,” Premier John Horgan said during a press briefing on April 9. “Everyone is experiencing stress, anxiety, depression and disconnection from what the world was supposed to be.

“If you’re a front-line worker, you’re working hard, you’re stressed – your family is stressed – you’re under intense pressure. People have lost their jobs, business have been shuttered. Seniors are safe at home but they’ve lost their connection to the outside world in many cases and those who live alone or in remote areas are feeling more alone than ever before.”

It’s critical to keep up mental health and wellness as much as our physical fitness, says Judy Darcy, B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

READ: B.C. unveils $5M for mental health supports during the COVID-19 pandemic

“Many of the things that bring us joy have been put on hold,” from birthdays to marriages, attending fitness classes at a gym to eating out in a restaurant, she said. Equally, people have been prevented from comforting someone who is seriously ill, or simply holding the hand of someone who is dying.

Frontline workers who have been thrust into tragic circumstances and a work environment on high alert “can’t keep pace,” she said. Nor should they have to. That’s why the provincial government is looking closely at the long-term impacts to our collective mental health, and making programs available to people who need help coping.

“The actions we take now to look after the mental health and wellbeing of our communities will reap benefits down the road,” Darcy said.

The province put $5 million into expanding counselling programs, including increasing access to Foundry youth clinics and Bounce Back, among others.

The B.C. Psychologists Association has a team of 200 psychologists volunteering their services to help frontline workers, and a hub for frontline community health care workers has been created too, Darcy said.

“Physical distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation,” she added.

There are numerous opportunities for people in the Alberni Valley to talk to someone about their anxiety, depression or feelings as they are socially isolated.

Outreach Therapy Alberni Valley & West Coast is available for families of pre-school aged children, by telehealth, phone or e-mail. They have a website at outreachtherapy.org.

Port Alberni Family Guidance Association is open for counselling sessions by phoning 250-724-0125.

Canadian Mental Health Port Alberni is posting regular tips on its Facebook page and is available for mental health needs.

Counsellor Pamela Ana of Wellness Matters Counselling and Consulting is offering telephone counselling to clients. E-mail her at wellnessmatters@shaw.ca for details.

Counsellor James Cowan of Tall Tree Counselling and Consulting Services is offering telephone and video counselling to clients, and has opened up some time specifically for people dealing with COVID-19 related issues. He can be reached online at www.talltreecounselling.com or e-mail talltreecounselling@outlook.com.

For School District 70 youth, there is counselling via telephone with Jordan or Rachel at 250-724-0125 until May 31.

A new program unveiled by the provincial government on April 17, Here2Talk, provides free, confidential, single-session services by app, phone or online chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Here2Talk.ca has been in development for several months and work was expedited to roll it out as soon as possible to support students dealing with increased stress from COVID-19.

CoronavirusIsland Healthmental healthPort Alberni

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B.C. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy speaks to reporters at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 24, 2020. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Researchers want to know how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting mental health. Pixabay

The Vernon and District branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has come up with some creative ways to stay connected with family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CMHA photo)

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