COVID affects everyone, but numbers don't lie and women suffer the worst. (Pixabay)

OPINION: Pressures on mental health rise with increasing COVID-19 case counts

‘This pandemic is pushing the limits of our mental health and our mental health resources’

“When will COVID end?” one of my children sometimes asks.

“I don’t know but, don’t worry, we’ll get through it together.”

From anxiety in children, to isolation among seniors, depression and frustration and confusion for everyone in between, this pandemic is pushing the limits of our mental health and our mental health resources.

Early on, it was dramatic and scary, but part of it was almost a novelty in some ways as we changed the way we behaved. No one could find toilet paper, and we banged pots and pans at 7 p.m. to honour frontline health-care professionals. Beyond the shocking economic impacts, some of it seemed more tolerable because of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s calm demeanour as she said daily: “It’s not forever, but it is for now.”

But the “now” of April turned into the “still?” of June, the “what, really?” of August, and an October where the hashtag #2020 needs no explanation.

B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie released a report last month in which she documented stories of “despondent” seniors left isolated in care homes and assisted living facilities, many elderly people who reported the only thing the looked forward to was a visit from family.

“There are also early warning signs of measurable health impacts. After many recent years of stability, the rate of anti-psychotic use for residents in long-term care has increased seven per cent during this pandemic and initial reports from the quarterly assessments show troubling trends of unintended weight loss and worsening of mood among long-term care residents.”

• READ MORE: B.C. seniors suffer from isolation, depression in COVID-19

A study out of the University of British Columbia a month prior found that 41 per cent of nurses reported that they suffered from depression, up from 31 per cent reported in 2019 (pre-pandemic). and 38 per cent said they experienced anxiety, compared to 28 per cent last year.

Elsewhere jokes were made about day drinking due to shortened work hours or working from home. But it was, and is, a serious reality, and it isn’t just alcohol. Illicit drug overdose deaths were hitting new highs in the summer, and the numbers aren’t improving.

The mental health of not only children up to late teens but also those in early adulthoood is a serious problem.

“COVID just illustrates the vulnerabilities in society that when any of us are under stress, our coping mechanisms are where we go to,” said Dr. Tahmeena Ali, a Surrey physician. “So whether that’s getting violent, or losing our temper, or overeating, or using drugs. It’s not a surprise, to any of us, that the overdose deaths are up. It’s a sad reality that when we have dysfunctional coping mechanisms, that’s what we fall on in periods of stress.”

On Halloween, there were unprecedented stories of fireworks set off across the Lower Mainland. What does that have to do with this? Well, I asked a group of teens setting off fireworks at playgrounds and down streets as my young son was trick-or-treating to stop. They flew into a rage when I told them fireworks were illegal, and that they were scaring young children. The angry response shocked me, as I’ve not seen that before. Maybe it shouldn’t have. Maybe it was understandable given the pressure these young people are under.

Domestic violence numbers, too, are at a terrible level pushing Ann Davis Transition Society resources to the limits.

The moves to limit sports and gym attendance may seem like a physical fitness (or just a fun) issue, but physical fitness (and fun, too) is absolutely crucial to mental health.

If mental health was a game of Jenga, despite the best intentions of public health officials, pieces are being pulled out that are critical to the structure and that could cause a collapse.

Clinical anxiety has not hit my household bubble, but nerves can be frayed.

Every day many of us don’t all do the right things – the hard part – yet that is another day we push the problem down the road, making it even harder.

As I wrote in this space in July, as Cultus was swarming with young people, it continues to be a Sophie’s choice every day: Let the kids play with their friends and risk virus transmission or lock ’em up in the house and risk mental health strain.

Everything has to be done to balance these choices, and we have to lean on one another – virtually and metaphorically – as best we can.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Students sign to pledge their support of ending use of the 'R' word. (Contributed photo)
LETTER: Autistic woman says use of the R-word is a degrading reminder of how cruel the world can be

‘I am a person with autism and I know how it feels to be ridiculed, laughed and even feared’

Construction is expected to start in March of 2021 on 23 new rental homes funded by the provincial government’s Community Housing Fund. (Metro Creative photo)
Province announces rental home project in Chilliwack paid for by Community Housing Fund

Twenty three homes for Indigenous families are planned in partnership with Tzeachten First Nation

Shandhar Hut Indian Cuisine reopened Dec. 1, 2020 in Chilliwack after closing Nov. 19 as a precautionary move to keep everyone safe. (Shandhar Hut/Facebook)
Chilliwack restaurant reopens after closing temporarily as a precautionary step

‘We are so grateful to everyone for their kindness,’ says Shandhar Hut manager

Police say 30-year-old Andrew Baldwin was killed in Surrey on Nov. 11. (Photo: Police handout)
Fourth man charged in 2019 Surrey murder

Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed on Remembrance Day last year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

B.C. Premier John Horgan on a conference call with religious leaders from his B.C. legislature office, Nov. 18, 2020, informing them in-person church services are off until further notice. (B.C. government)
B.C. tourism relief coming soon, Premier John Horgan says

Industry leaders to report on their urgent needs next week

An RCMP cruiser looks on as a military search and rescue helicopter winds down near Bridesville, B.C. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Photo courtesy of RCMP Cpl. Jesse O’Donaghey
B.C. Mountie, suspect airlifted by Canadian Armed Forces from ravine after foot chase

Military aircraft were dispatched from Comox, B.C., say RCMP

Photo by Dale Klippenstein
Suspect tries to thwart police in Abbotsford with false 911 call about men with guns

Man twice sped away from officers and then tried to throw them off his trail

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An 18-year old male southern resident killer whale, J34, is stranded near Sechelt in 2016. A postmortem examination suggests he died from trauma consistent with a vessel strike. (Photo supplied by Paul Cottrell, Fisheries and Oceans Canada)
“We can do better” — humans the leading cause of orca deaths: study

B.C. research reveals multitude of human and environmental threats affecting killer whales

A logo for Netflix on a remote control is seen in Portland, Ore.,Aug. 13, 2020. Experts in taxation and media say a plan announced Monday by the government will ultimately add to the cost of digital services and goods sold by foreign companies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jenny Kane
‘Netflix tax’ for digital media likely to raise prices for consumers, experts say

The government says Canadian companies already collect those taxes when they make digital sales

Most Read