Feeling Stressed due to the Pandemic – Mental Health (2020.05.27)

I’m feeling stressed due to the pandemic

I’m feeling stressed due to the pandemic. Is this normal?   

A pandemic is a very stressful event for individuals and communities, so it’s normal to feel some stress and anxiety. It is also important to note that it’s also common for people to display great resiliency during times of crisis.  

Some groups may be more likely to feel that the stress is overwhelming or harming their mental health, including:  

  • Older people or those at higher risk from COVID-19;  
  • Children and teenagers;  
  • First responders, health-care providers and others who are helping with their community’s response to the disease;  
  • People with pre-existing mental health problems or mental illnesses, including histories of problematic substance use.  

How might stress related to the pandemic affect me?   

  • It’s common to see fear and worry, especially focused on one’s own health and the health of loved ones. For some people, these worries can become excessive, and affect how we function in our daily lives.  
  • It can be difficult to relax and to get the normal amount of sleep, or to get restful sleep, and your appetite and eating habits can also be affected. Disruptions to one’s eating and sleeping routine, and a lack of exercise, can have a negative effect on your general or overall health, as well as your immune system.  
  • Being stressed out can worsen the symptoms of existing chronic health problems, including mental health problems. It’s important to stay with any treatment and to monitor your condition.  
  • For some people, we can see an increase in the use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.  
  • Keep in mind that relying on alcohol, tobacco or drugs to manage stress can have a number of negative effects on health.  
  • Feeling stressed and afraid – as well as self-isolation and social distancing – can make it difficult to maintain close social relationships, and those are important to well–being and to maintaining our resilience in the face of a crisis.

What can I do to ease my mind?  

  • Accept that it’s okay to be worried; it’s normal to feel some anxiety about a situation like this.  
  • Take breaks from following the news and social media regarding the outbreak. It’s important to be informed, but there’s evidence that hearing constantly about an upsetting event can worsen the stress and worry – beyond what’s necessarily appropriate and proportionate. Could you limit your check-in to one reliable source, once a day? 
  • When you do follow the news, get your information from reliable sources, such as public health agencies and officials. 
  • Practice self-care. Get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise (including by going outdoors while following public health directives) and do things you enjoy.  
  • This is absolutely the time to lean on each other. Even if we can’t be close physically with one another, we need to stay close emotionally. Stay in touch with your social network and reach out for social support.   
  • One way to do this is to discuss a buddy system in which you agree to check in on each other and run essential errands if you become sick.  
  • Stay focused on what is within your control:  
  • Follow the precautions set out by Health Canada and your public health agencies: wash your hands, cover your mouth during coughs and sneezes, avoid non-essential travel, etc.

Reach out if you need to 

  • Seek help if you’re experiencing significant mental distress, such as worsening symptoms of anxiety or depression that were previously unrelated to the current situation.  
  • If you are experiencing significant distress, reach out for formal mental health supports from a health care professional or a recognized agency, such as your local CMHA. Find your local CMHA at www.cmha.ca/find-your-cmha  
On-line Resources for Indigenous Communities – Mental Wellness and
COVID 19  

The COVID 19 pandemic is impacting Indigenous communities in many ways. Whether or not there are cases in or close to their community, people may find themselves experiencing distress, anxiety, and uncertainty.

People who are at higher risk mayexperience more severe mental health impacts. These are understandable reactionsand there are mental wellness supports available to help.  Supporting mental wellness during and after the COVID 19 pandemic is an essential service.

There is a wide range of virtual resources available to help Indigenous
communities with their mental wellness. Support is available to help
people cope with anxiety related to the pandemic itself as well as with
stress from trying to balance cultural values with public health measures, losing a job, being at home, isolation, physical distancing, family conflict, problematic substance use, and many other issues.

Counselling, cultural supports, and other forms of treatment are available through telehealth and on-line platforms.  

It is important that Indigenous communities have easy and fast access to trustworthy, factual, and effective resources to support their mental
wellness during this challenging time. New on-line mental wellness
resources related to COVID 19 are being launched daily, which has led to an overwhelming amount of information.

Below is a snapshot of current examples of resources developed for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations. These lists will be updated as moreresources are identified and become available.  
Crisis Lines :
Hope for Wellness Helpline provides immediate, culturally safe,
telephone crisis intervention, 24 hours a day, seven days a week in
English and French, and upon request in Cree, Ojibway, and Inuktitut.       Phone: 1-855-242-3310         
On-line chat  Kids Help Phone is supporting youth 24/7 and through a
partnership with We Matter, supporting Indigenous youth through text,
phone and linking with youth programs.

They have also developed a variety of resources related to COVID 19
among othertopics.          
Phone: 1-800-668-6868         
Text: 686868  

Indigenous Services Canada     
Indigenous Services Canada’s Community Guide on Accessing Additional Supports provides an overview of additional supports for communities
related to the COVID19 pandemic.     

NIHB Mental Health Counselling continues to be available and is being
delivered via telehealth platforms.   

Mental Wellness Teams continue to support communities in a variety of ways, including on-line and over the phone. In some regions, face-to-face meetings are still possible, but limited to emergencies only.          

First Peoples Wellness Circle (FPWC) are supporting MWTs by providing
guidance material on how to support individuals, families, elders, and communities.   

FPWC will also be launching a secure on-line platform to help MWTs
better reach communities in a safe and effective manner. For more information onthis work, please see FPWC’s website.  

IRS Resolution Health Support Program (IRS RHSP) and support for those affected bythe issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and
Girls (MMIWG) continue tobe available. IRS RHSP and MMIWG workers
are following public health guidelinesand mainly providing services
virtually and by phone. Professional counselling foreligible IRS and MMI

WG clients is also available at this time and can be provided virtually or
by phone.          

A help line provides services for former students of the Indian residentialSchools and their families.
These services are accessible 24/7toll-free at 1-866-925-4419.         

The support line for MMIWG provide immediate assistance, national and independent, toll-free 24/7 at 1-844-413-6649.

The service is offered in English,French, Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut.  

Most federally-funded Treatment Centres have closed, but in some cases,
counselling staff are reaching out to clients over the phone and on-line.
Some centres are also exploring on-line options for aftercare and some
have been providing care hampers to past clients, elders, and low income community members.

Check with treatment centres to find out more. Treatment centres are
also being supported by Thunderbird Partnership Foundation.  OAT Sites are working with the medical professionals affiliated with their programs to make sure clients have continued access.  

Jordan’s Principle – Services continue during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Please seethe website for more details.  

Inuit Child First Initiative – Services continue during the COVID 19 pandemic. Please see the website for more details.  

First Nations Specific Resources  Assembly of First Nations has a webpage dedicated to COVID 19 that includes avariety of information including
tips and considerations around mental wellness.  

First Peoples Wellness Circle exists to improve the lives of Canada’s First Peoples by addressing healing, wellness and other mental health challenges. They have developed a series of resources for a variety of audiences
related to COVID19.  

Thunderbird Partnership Foundation‘s top priority is developing a
continuum of care that would be available to all First Nations people in
Canada, using the honouring Our Strengths document as a framework.

They have developed a variety of resources related to COVID 19,
including several specific to substance use.  

First Nations Health Managers Association works on certification and
professional development opportunities. They have pivoted to use their
voice as another medium for COVID 19 messaging. They have been and
will continue holding town hall related to COVID 19 that have featured
topics such as mental wellness and youth.  

National Association of Friendship Centres focus on supporting
Friendship Centres across Canada. They have developed a webpage with Indigenous resources that are from vetted and trustworthy sources.  

Native Women’s Association of Canada has posted messages on COVID 19 and are helping connect people with their elders.  

Manitoba Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are providing regular updates on COVID 19.  

First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba has a webpagededicated to COVID 19 that includes a comprehensive array of resources
and list of contact information for helplines, health assistance, mental
health/counselling,and other supports.  Youth-Specific Resources We
Matter focuses on life promotion and messages of hope and resilience. 

They have developed toolkits for youth, teachers, and support workers tohelp youth and those who support youth through challenging times. They also havea, mini-tool kit. This material is also available on USB keys
which can be sent to communities, especially those with experiencing
issues with connectivity. These toolkits are being used to support Indigenous youth during the COVID 19 pandemic. 

We Matter is also using their on-line platform to reach and support youth on COVID 19. For example, they continue to develop social media content
(facebook, Twitter, Instagram) with supportive messages related to the
pandemic.They hosted an Instagram live session on April 9th, 2020 to
facilitate a discussion among youth about COVID 19. 

They are working with their youth representatives from their
Ambassadors of Hope program to link to communities around COVID 19.
Canadian Roots Exchange has set up the CREation Community Support
Fund to support youth mental wellness during the COVID 19 pandemic
through local solutions.