With the latest update from the Province that Ontario could receive a vaccine for COVID-19 before the end of 2020, it couldn’t come soon enough for many struggling with their mental health due to the pandemic.
According to a recent report from the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), the resurgence of the virus amid a second wave of the pandemic has intensified feelings of stress and anxiety, causing alarming levels of despair, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness among Canadians.
Based on the findings, 71 per cent of respondents said they were concerned about the second wave, with 58 per cent worried about a loved one or family member dying, and only 21 per cent reported feeling hopeful.
Further, 40 per cent of respondents said their mental health has continued to deteriorate since the onset of the pandemic in March.
Moreover, unemployed Canadians and those with a pre-existing mental illness have been struggling the most with their mental health during the pandemic—61 per cent reported deteriorating mental health among both groups, followed by those between the ages of 18 and 24—60 per cent of whom reported deteriorating mental health.
“Cold weather, uncertainty, eroded social networks and restrictions on holiday gatherings are hitting at a time when people are already anxious, hopeless and fearful that things are going to get worse,” Margaret Eaton, CEO of CMHA, said in a news release.
“I am afraid that many people are in such despair that they can’t see past it,” she continued.
Most alarmingly, the number of Canadians either considering or thinking about suicide has increased significantly—before the pandemic, only 2.5 per cent of Canadians thought about suicide.
However, that number jumped to six per cent towards the onset of the pandemic in the spring, before climbing to 10 per cent during the second wave.
“We are seeing a direct relationship between social stressors and declining mental health,” Emily Jenkins, a professor of nursing at UBC who studies mental health and substance use, said in the same release.
“As the pandemic wears on and cases and related restrictions rise, a good proportion of our population is suffering. Particularly concerning are the levels of suicidal thinking and self-harm, which have increased exponentially since before the pandemic and are further magnified in certain sub-groups of the population who were already experiencing stigma, exclusion, racism and discrimination,” she continued.
Moreover, many Canadians have turned to substances to help them cope with the current state of the world—17 per cent of Canadians have admitted to using alcohol, cannabis, or prescription medications as a way to get through these unprecedented times.