CMHA and UBC release new data on empathy and challenged relationships
Ottawa, ON, May 2, 2022 – Just as Ontarians are experiencing pandemic fatigue after two long years, research suggests that Ontarians may also be experiencing “empathy fatigue.” The latest survey conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and UBC researchers, Assessing the Impacts of COVID-19 on Mental Health, shows that feelings of empathy have eroded over the course of the pandemic, with only 12 per cent of Ontarians feeling empathetic, down markedly since the onset of the pandemic from 26 per cent.
Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s perspective and feelings.
“The decline in empathy that we are seeing is concerning,” says Margaret Eaton, National CEO, CMHA. “If we are to resolve our conflicts in relationships, in society and globally, we need to understand one another, even when we don’t agree.”
The CMHA/UBC survey also reveals that 38 per cent of Ontarians are worried about lost social connections, 39 per cent are worried about being separated from friends and family, and 41 per cent are worried about getting sick with COVID-19.
CMHA/UBC data released in March 2022 shows that 39 per cent of Ontarians have experienced a decline in their mental health since the start of the pandemic.
“The deterioration of social relationships that we see in the data comes at a time when we need each other more than ever,” says Dr. Emily Jenkins, UBC professor who co-led the research. “Empathy is essential not only for building positive and healthy relationships, but also for reducing divisions between people, and in our communities. And the good news is, it is an emotional response that can be cultivated.”
The release of these data on empathy and strained relationships couldn’t be timelier as it coincides with the 71st annual Mental Health Week, May 2-8, 2022.This year’s theme is the importance of empathy.
“It’s been two long years since our world was turned upside down,” said Dr. Tim Simboli, Executive Director of CMHA Ottawa. “Nerves are frayed, emotions raw and tolerance diminished. Empathy allows us to see and feel the world as those around us experience it. It helps make sense of the things we see, strengthens our relationships, and strengthens respect. Without empathy the world these days is cold and hard to understand.”
Mental Health Week is sponsored by major sponsor Beneva as well as The Medicine Shoppe, Workplace Strategies for Mental Health (Canada Life) and Not Myself Today. To get involved, you can:
- Learn more about mental health and empathy at www.mentalhealthweek.ca
- Share your support on social media by downloading a toolkit and using hashtags #GetReal and #MentalHealthWeek
- Donate to support CMHA mental health programs and services at www.cmha.ca/donate
- Connect. If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact your local CMHA or 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) or dial 911.
About CMHA Ottawa: The Canadian Mental Health Association, Ottawa Branch (CMHA) is a private, non-profit charitable organization dedicated to promoting good mental health and improving the quality of life for individuals experiencing serious mental illness. The Community Support Services of CMHA Ottawa provides outreach, long-term intensive support and housing to individuals with serious mental illness and substance use disorders who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless. Learn more about CMHA Ottawa and its services here: https://ottawa.cmha.ca.
For media inquiries:
Patrick Jodoin, Manager, Communications and Stakeholder Relations, CMHA Ottawa
613-737-7791 ext. 135
Ottawa residents: Save the date! Join CMHA Ottawa and Ottawa Public Health at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday, May 3, as we broadcast live on YouTube for Mental Health Week.
We’ll be talking all about empathy, sharing resources, and discussing tips and strategies for positive mental health.