For Mental Health Week, the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division promotes social connection to protect mental health in these difficult times
VANCOUVER (B.C.) – Most British Columbians rely on shortcuts to describe their emotional state—even during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to new data released today by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with Maru/Matchbox, 77 per cent of those asked “how are you?” rely on “I’m fine, thanks” to express how they’re doing, despite the fact that British Columbians are feeling more negative emotions than positive ones these days (53% negative vs. 47% positive). The data were released to mark Canada’s 69th annual Mental Health Week, which runs May 4-10, 2020.
Despite a pandemic-driven growth in video-conferencing and social media usage, Canadians are feeling more isolated than ever (up 8 points from 39% to 47% in less than one month) and crave real, meaningful connections. In fact, two-thirds of British Columbians (66%) report they would like to experience more meaningful social interactions in their daily life.
“Most Canadians want more social connection, yet they’re reluctant to have the kind of honest, open conversations that build the connection they crave,” says Margaret Eaton, national CEO of CMHA. “In our society, it’s a cultural norm to ask people how they’re doing, but not to expect, nor provide, a truthful answer. This Mental Health Week, it’s time to get real about how we feel. It’s clear we need each other more than ever.”
Prior to the global pandemic, loneliness was already a major public health concern. People with weak or few social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and suicide1. And a lack of strong relationships has the same negative impact on life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.2
Due to physical distancing measures, people are isolated in their homes, missing out on family events and in-person activities and it appears they’re feeling it. Almost half of British Columbians are feeling anxious (47%), and only eight per cent are feeling happy. As we face social distancing measures, it’s important to note that people don’t need to be close to feel close.
“It doesn’t just feel good to connect—it’s actually good essential for our mental health,” says Jonny Morris, Chief Executive Officer, CMHA BC Division. “During this challenging time of social distancing and physical separation it’s our social connections which will really help us through and will help us recover from this pandemic and it’s mental health implications individually and as a community”.
“So this Mental Health Week we encourage all British Columbians to reach out and ask how others are doing, but also really listen and be honest their answers too,” continues Morris. “Use the technology at your disposal to schedule a video call, IM a friend, pick up the phone or chat to a neighbour from a responsible distance. And check out newly expanded virtual mental health supports funded by the Province at cmha.bc.ca/covid-19.”
Strong social networks lead to better self-esteem, coping mechanisms and a sense of well-being, and reduce depression and distress by providing emotional support, companionship and opportunities for meaningful social engagement.3
The focus of this year’s Mental Health Week is to promote social connection and the role it plays in good mental health. To get involved, you can:
- Learn more about your mental health and how to feel close even when we can’t be at mentalhealthweek.ca/yourmentalhealth
- Share your support on social media by downloading a toolkit at mentalhealthweek.ca/toolkit and using hashtags #GetReal #MentalHealthWeek and #TogetherApart
- Donate to support CMHA mental health programs and services at https://cmha.bc.ca/get-involved/donate/
- Connect. If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact your local CMHA to find out about virtual and phone-based support services there to help you. Or, visit cmha.bc.ca/covid-19. If you are in crisis, please call 1-833-456-4566 toll free in Canada (1-866-277-3553 in Quebec).
Mental Health Week was introduced by CMHA in 1951 and has since become a Canadian tradition. To learn more, please visit www.mentalhealthweek.ca
About the Data
CMHA partnered with Maru/Matchbox to conduct an online survey among a total of 1,507 Canadian adults on April 15, 2020. A probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, nineteen times out of twenty. The sample was weighted to reflect the Canadian adult population according to the most recent Census data. Additional data was taken from Maru’s ongoing, near-daily FEEL, BEHAVE, THINK COVID-19 tracking study. For more information, please go to www.marureports.com/coronavirus
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About the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division (CMHA BC)
Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada. Through a presence in hundreds of neighbourhoods across every province, CMHA provides advocacy and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive. In BC, CMHA’s mandate includes people with substance use problems and those that love and support them.
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
External Relations Specialist, CMHA BC Division