Introduction

(PDF)

Events during the beginning of 2020 have changed the world but we don’t know if the changes will last or if they will mute over time. The financial stress and family worries – not to mention having our world turned upside down, have meant that Canadians have had to deal with an emotional overload.

Of all the publications that Mood Disorders Society has produced, this one may be its most personal. All members of the Board of Directors, senior management and the organization’s employees, along with their families and friends, are experiencing some version of the subjects that will be discussed here. Worry, anxiety and grief are no strangers to us.

In the regular course of its business, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada (MDSC) is a leading national voice on behalf of people affected by depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, PTSD and other mood disorders – and their families and caregivers.

However, the many conversations Canadians have been having about the effects of COVID – 19 on their mental health has challenged MDSC to broaden its horizons.

MDSC’s traditional advocacy role is with politicians and government decision-makers, urging them to fund mental health services to the level needed by Canadians with mental illness. MDSC’s role comes out of decades of stigma surrounding mental illness which resulted in government neglect and the dire need for strong advocacy for improved mental health services throughout the country.

However, during this historical time, Canadians have demonstrated holistic views of their emotional health that go far beyond just the need for formal mental health services. In fact, it is safe to say that they don’t very often think about the mental health service sector and instead, view mental health in the context of family, friends, work and school. They also connect mental health to physical and financial health, as well as spiritual well-being.

MDSC is a learning organization and, through this essay, will join the conversations that Canadians are having about their mental and financial health – all across the country.

The contribution of this publication is to assure readers that the emotional turmoil generated by these unprecedented circumstances, while uncomfortable, is a normal response to such far reaching upheaval. Just naming the many emotions we are feeling helps disentangle them from the general overwhelm and helps us deal with them one by one.

We’ve identified four stages to ground our discussion:

  1. The threat of a pandemic
  2. The reality of a pandemic
  3. The pressures of lockdown
  4. The need to return to work or the threat of having no work to return to.

For a small number of Canadians, emotional turmoil can either worsen their already existing mental health issues or, for those who have had no previous problems, precipitate grave distress that needs the help of formal mental health services. If this occurs to you, it must be taken seriously.

We conclude with a number of online mental health (Appendix 1) and financial resources (Appendix 2) that readers can turn to for support and help as they struggle to find their equilibrium again.

1. The Threat of a Pandemic

Early i