Saskatchewan advocates, experts expect spike in mental health calls over holidays

Saskatchewan advocates, experts expect spike in mental health calls over holidays

The executive director of Canada’s Mental Health Department (CMHA) in Saskatchewan expects more mental health calls during the vacation.

Phyllis O’Connor told Global News that the stresses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating regular seasonal stresses such as financial concerns and family issues.

“The social isolation, worrying about caring for loved ones, worrying about yourself – it all really adds up,” she said.

“Human social connection is a major determinant of mental health, and that is exactly what COVID (-19) has achieved.”

The CMHA launched a mental health hotline in March. O’Connor said Saskatchewan residents had called it more than 750 times – almost three times a day – and expected more calls in the next few weeks.

She said the Health Association originally planned to close the hotline in October, but more people were calling at that time.

She said pandemic fatigue is likely behind the surge.

O’Connor’s prediction comes after a survey conducted by the CMHA and the University of British Columbia found that 40 percent of respondents across the country, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan, said their mental health deteriorated during the second wave of has COVID-19.

That number rises to 54 percent for Indigenous and LGBT people across the country.

It rises to 60 percent for people between the ages of 18 and 24 and to 61 percent for people who suffered from mental illness before the pandemic began.

Heidi Fischer knows how bad holidays can be.

She has been dealing with depression and anxiety for more than 20 years and is now reporting on her experiences with them.

She said that she sometimes felt prepared for the pandemic because her depression and anxiety kept her home before.

But she said her mood can change and she will feel the full effects of her depression and anxiety combined with concerns about the health crisis.

“You might have a week or two where things feel good, feel almost normal, and then you have a week where everything is going well,” she said, speaking to Global News about Zoom.

When asked how it was, she said that she felt that she couldn’t get up or that she had got up at night, that she was sad.

In addition to family problems and less sunshine (for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorders), she said the vacation can be difficult because it can be difficult to access therapists who may be particularly busy with other clients or taking time out have taken.

“Last year, actually around this time, I had a tough time trying to get an extra appointment and I couldn’t get in until January,” she said.

This year she is planning quiet get-togethers with her parents – and to remember that she may not have access to all the support that she normally needs.

She said she hooks up with friends who also have mental illnesses and makes sure everyone has a list of phone numbers to call if they need additional assistance.

O’Connor said she advises everyone to ignore what’s beyond their control, reach out to family and friends, focus on the vaccine, and contact them if you need help.

“We are in unprecedented times and it’s okay to be scared.”

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In an emergency, please call 911 for immediate assistance.

Crisis Services CanadaThe toll-free hotline provides 24/7 support at 1-833-456-4566.

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