By Stacy Ashton, Executive Director
A side-effect of unprecedented experiences is you learn unexpected lessons. Assumptions are tested against reality, and you get to learn through observation instead of guesswork.
I always thought catching colds was inevitable. Only a wizard would be able to avoid the viruses floating around us all the time. This month, I suddenly realized I haven’t had a single cold or flu symptom since March! I learned I had more control over colds and flus than I realized – washing hands, wearing a mask, restricting my hugs, avoiding crowds made a noticeable difference.
I don’t like some of it (hand-washing is fine, but I really miss indiscriminate hugging), but at least I know what works to protect my physical health.
This week, we had the privilege of joining a Grade 10 class via Zoom, to deliver one of the first “Self-Care for Mental Health” workshop in a new school year. In previous years, we have delivered this workshop in classrooms. This time our facilitators came online while 22 teens sat socially distanced in the computer lab at their school.
In this new setting, students who would have never spoken up in class shared freely with each other over chat. Facilitators led a conversation about how to manage our own mental health and supported students to create their own personalized “self-care plan,” including resources available to support in times of crisis or need. Teens shared all sorts of strategies they use to stay hopeful, connected, and future-oriented. They also shared many of the stresses and challenges they are facing – isolation, fear regarding the future, wearing masks, dealing with an exorbitant amount of family time, and navigating school in a very new way.
What will we learn, as mood and resilience get tested against a whole range of unfamiliar stresses?
This pandemic presents many challenges, but it also gives us a reason to prioritize and invest in mental health. We have an opportunity to deeply integrate mental health as key to our pandemic recovery.
October 10 is World Mental Health Day. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, is calling on the world “to come together and begin redressing the historic neglect of mental health. We are already seeing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s mental well-being, and this is just the beginning. Unless we make serious commitments to scale up investment in mental health right now, the health, social and economic consequences will be far-reaching.”
In British Columbia, the election is a chance to send that message through our votes. Economic recovery hinges on people recovery: both physical and mental. These are lessons we are learning through the pandemic. As we chart a path forward, make sure the candidates in your riding know that mental health is a priority for you. Learn about your candidates and their parties. Make mental health a priority.
If you or someone you know is struggling, especially with thoughts of suicide, we are here for you. Reach us at:
- Vancouver Coastal Regional Distress Line: 604-872-3311
- Anywhere in BC 1-800-SUICIDE: 1-800-784-2433
- Mental Health Support Line: 310-6789
- Online Chat Service for Youth: www.YouthInBC.com (Noon to 1am)
- Online Chat Service for Adults: www.CrisisCentreChat.ca (Noon to 1am)