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For Mental Health Week, the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association promotes social connection to protect mental health in these difficult times’
Ottawa, ON – May 4, 2020 – Most Canadians 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 Canadians 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 today, May 4 through Sunday, May 10, 2020.
Despite a pandemic-driven growth in video-conferencing and social media usage, Canadians are feeling more isolated than ever (up 12 points from 39% to 47% in less than one month) and crave real, meaningful connections. In fact, two-thirds of Canadians (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 suicide. And a lack of strong relationships has the same negative impact on life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
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 Canadians are feeling anxious (47%), and only eight per cent are feeling happy. As we face physical distancing measures, it’s important to note that people don’t need to be close to feel close.
“We need to ensure everyone gets connected,” says Dr. Tim Simboli, Executive Director of CMHA Ottawa, whose branch is focusing on getting smartphones and devices into the hands of its most marginalized of clients. “I worry about those that remain forgotten and unconnected at these times. We assume everyone has the same access we do. It doesn’t just feel good to connect—it’s actually good for everyone’s mental health.”
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.
Since March 16, 2020, CMHA Ottawa has distributed 150 phones, five laptops, five TVs and some portable radios to its clients (so far) in the name of providing the means for meaningful connection to those in need. Throughout Mental Health Week 2020, CMHA Ottawa will be sharing some of these stories on its Facebook page, Twitter and website.
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 Ottawa’s mental health programs and services at https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/130113525RR0001-canadian-mental-health-association-ottawa-branch/
- Connect. If you or someone you love is struggling, please visit the Government of Canada’s Wellness Together portal. 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
About the Canadian Mental Health Association
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 more than 330 communities across every province and one territory, CMHA provides advocacy, programs and resources that help to prevent mental health problems and illnesses, support recovery and resilience, and enable all Canadians to flourish and thrive. For more information, visit www.cmha.ca
CMHA Ottawa is an independent, non-profit charitable organization dedicated to promoting good mental health and improving the quality of life of individuals experiencing severe and persistent mental illness and/or substance use disorder. Founded in 1953, the community-based agency is committed to the development and implementation of support systems and services, and encouraging public action to strengthen community mental health services and related policies and legislation. For more information, visit https://ottawa.cmha.ca/
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