After more than six weeks into the novel coronavirus pandemic and physical distancing measures, almost half of B.C. residents report feeling anxious, and only eight per cent say they are happy.
However, a survey conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association found more than three-quarters of B.C. residents reported telling others they were fine when asked, "how are you?"
"We are so accustomed to saying ‘fine’ when someone asks how we are, we think it is the appropriate and polite thing to say. And we’ve continued to answer this way even though we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic," Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon and District executive director Julia Payson said in a media release.
"It is hard to change what we consider socially acceptable behaviour... but by sharing the reality of challenges you are facing not only does it allow others to support you, but it reduces stigma and makes it easier for other people to say when they aren’t fine as well."
The survey results were released today, May 4, at the start of Canada’s 69th annual Mental Health Week, which runs from May 4 to 10. This year's theme is fitting, social connection.
The mental health association's survey mirrors a nationwide survey conducted by Angus Reid that reported that half of Canadians say their mental health has declined during the COVID-19 pandemic and 16 per cent describe themselves as depressed.
According to the B.C. survey conducted April 15 by Maru/Matchbox, social distancing is taking its toll with 47 per cent of people feeling more isolated than ever, a 20 per cent increase in just one month. Two-thirds of British Columbians say they would like to experience more meaningful social interactions during the pandemic and video chat and social media usage fails to meet those needs.
"Right now, we are all having to find new and creative ways to strengthen these social connections and promote our mental health. One first step is to be real and honest when someone asks how you are. And to support those who can be honest with us," Payson said.
The mental health association has rolled out a variety of programs to help the community during the pandemic. They range from a phone buddy program that matches people with similar interests and hobbies to a service called, bounce back, which aims to be a practical and empowering way of learning key life skills to boost mood and help people get back on track.
For more information on the Bounce Back program go here.
Support and help from the Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon branch can be found here.
Anyone in crisis can call the Interior Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-888-353-2273.
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