This is a hard story for me to write. I’ve spent my career trying to put on a brave and confident face in front of customers and colleagues. Yet, over the past year or so, it’s been difficult to keep up that facade. And it’s now scary for me to share with the internet at large. Or, at least, anyone who reads this post.
My mother was diagnosed with ALS three years ago. She was my best friend and I miss her dearly every day. In the time before she passed away earlier this year, her slow decline from not being able to walk, then talk, and finally breathe took a toll on me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And finally losing her was like losing a part of myself.
Since then, I’ve struggled to balance between grieving her death, which comes in heavy and unexpected waves, and becoming a home-schooler who has lost client work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s even harder because of social distancing and other pressures that come with being isolated from friends and family. I can go from feeling anxious or angry to sad in the span of an hour.
But I know I am not alone in those struggles. Everyone is fighting their own battles and we’re all doing our best to keep it together right now. Global News reports that “11 million Canadians will experience “high levels of stress in family and work settings,” according to Health Canada data. Additionally, “close to two million Canadians are predicted to show signs of ‘traumatic stress.’”
I pray we can all get through it, and find ways to cope and connect when we need it most. Over the past few months, I’ve felt helpless in how I can contribute in some way to make things better. That is until I realized one of my biggest struggles right now is also a challenge for so many of us at this very moment.
The urgent need for mental health support services
I’ve read and watched countless videos and news stories about our brave front line and essential workers who are facing anxiety, burnout, depression, insomnia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of their unwavering dedication to helping people fight and survive the Coronavirus.
It’s even harder for those who were already struggling with depression or PTSD before the virus hit their communities and hospitals hard.
An ADP Canada Co. survey recently revealed that only “45 per cent of employers are offering extra mental-health supports to their staff (across all industries).” And just “46 per cent of health-care workers and 27 per cent of workers in retail, food services, hospitality and warehouse or transportation jobs said their employer has made mental-health resources available during the pandemic.”
When life hopefully returns to normal, many of these workers will need ongoing mental health support. In Ontario alone, “Seven out of 10 Ontarians (69%) believe the province is headed for a “serious mental health crisis” as it emerges from this pandemic and nearly eight out of 10 (77%) say more mental health supports will be necessary to help society.”
Ways to help now and in the future
I’ve been gathering information on what resources and tools are available — to not only help frontline and essential workers get the mental healthcare and support they need now but in the many months after we finally find a vaccine.
Some of these services are also available to anyone in their province or country who needs mental health support. And in many cases, we can assist these programs through charitable donations and by sharing the information with people you know who might need extra support.
Calling on those people regularly is also important — to see what they might need or by just being there to listen. I’m so grateful to the people who’ve been checking in on me, and I’d love to pay it forward.
I hope to add to this list as the months go on, and I discover new services or charities.
Services and fundraisers to access or support
Here is a list of available services and charities that I’ve discovered so far.
- Support services: The CBC has compiled an excellent list of free services for mental and emotional health for Canadians.
- Charities: CanadaHelps.org has listed all of its associated Covid-19 charities (broken down by province or region) on one page.
- The Frontline Fund is another charity that you can donate to in order to help healthcare workers access supplies, mental health support, and research.
- CAMH offers mental health support resources for both health professionals and anyone dealing with a recent loss, grief, anxiety, and stress.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) offers tips on managing your physical and mental health at home.
- You can also donate to WHO’s Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund to support frontline workers with various needs.
- For the Frontlines is a free text-based support service that offers crisis counseling to health care and essential workers in a number of countries.
- #FirstRespondersFirst is another fundraiser set up by a group of organizations to assist frontline workers with the resources they need to stay healthy.
- Mashable has compiled a list of apps (e.g., mediation and gratitude journaling) and other resources that you can access to manage anxiety and depression related to Covid-19 at home.
Hoping for small miracles
What got me through the months before I lost my mother was the realization that we needed to hope for little things. We’d hope that we could spend time with her once more, that we could make her laugh, or that she’d get a big hug from her grandkids and it would make her smile. Holding on to those small hopes helped us make it through another day.
In the face of COVID-19, and the knowledge that so many people need mental health support right now, I hope we can find small ways to make each other’s lives brighter now and in the near future.
If I’ve missed an important service or fundraiser that should be added to the post, please include it in the comments or message me on Twitter. Or, if you’ve found other methods or posts that have helped you manage your mental health at this time, I’d love to hear about them as well.