January 28

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Our Mental Health Is At Risk. Meaning Our Country’s Long-Term Resiliency Is As Well.

We aren’t just battling one pandemic – there’s been another one bubbling under the surface for a while now. One that essentially started the minute the global health crisis touched all corners of the globe and is doing damage to our health in a much different way.

With our old day-to-day routines long gone, our physical workspaces all replaced, ongoing non-essential travel restrictions halting vacation planning of any kind, and the lines between work and home life all blurred into one big jumble, they have all had a cumulative impact on Canadians’ mental health.

And while it can be challenging to quantify the impact the pandemic has had on our mental health; the numbers paint a disturbing picture of how it’s chipping away at our collective resiliency and our ability to cope.

Our collective mental health is at significant risk

“If Canadians’ mental health and well-being needs are not addressed, the resilience of our country will face a significant long-term threat,” said Stephen Liptrap, Morneau Shepell’s president and chief executive officer.

Social isolation and financial problems have been some of the most significant factors contributing to a decline in all Canadians’ mental health. Living in a constant state of worry and anxiety around housing, food, boredom, job insecurity – and wondering when the pandemic will end have a compound effect and wear on our collective outlooks.

As we are now one year in, our mental health and stress levels are comparatively worse than where they were at the beginning of the pandemic.

With many ongoing economic uncertainties and anxieties related to the pandemic, it has never been a more critical juncture in taking the time to support ourselves and each other by prioritizing our mental health.

There’s been a significant decrease in employees’ productivity

With ongoing lockdowns, physical distancing, and social isolation plaguing Canadians work and personal lives, it can still be difficult to find rhythm and consistency in adjusting to these new work environments. According to Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest mental-health index, “employee mental health and workplace productivity is worsening as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.”

The report shows a decline in motivation suggesting emotional exhaustion. The line between our professional and personal lives are blurring so much that there is never a clear distinction between the two. While technology has been instrumental in connecting us, it also means that we are always tethered to our devices and while feeling the need to remain “on” for any work-related needs.

The index also makes note that individuals who don’t have the safety net of paid time off have the lowest mental-health score because they need to keep working to make ends meet. This fear of job security can make it challenging and draining to focus on work when you’re always being met with this distraction in the back of your mind.

And when you pair this with the old idea of ‘work hard, play hard’ and how it is now dramatically tilted to the former, people don’t have that escape or exploration in letting go and enjoying personal time off to relax. Many workers are finding it increasingly more difficult to focus on their tasks now than before the start of the pandemic.

Bell Let’s Talk: Every action counts

This past year has had a profound effect on our mental health – and it is making it a pandemic of its own.

“When it comes to mental health, now more than ever, every action counts.” The slogan is concise and appropriate for what we’re all going through for this years’ Bell Let’s Talk campaign. We are all bearing the brunt of the pandemic, and it is pushing our resiliency to new lengths. Now is the time to be kind to ourselves and others. Being a good listener to your friends, family, or co-workers, with simple acts of kindness can help open up the conversation and let someone know you’re there for them. It’s the little things that will make a big difference.

Technology shows how connected we all are – but we can do more

A report from Benefits Canada suggests the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating several health care trends in 2021, including ‘the growth of virtual care and a focus on mental and emotional well-being.’ Getting much-needed support over technology by connecting to a professional or friends and family has been a silver lining through all this.

We need to address our collective mental health, inside and outside of the workplace. We can’t pour from an empty glass, and employers must continue to emphasize mental health and physical health practices to their staff. It’s a call for all employers to promote and encourage the use of the resources available. To reach out to their workers and connect with them on a human level. To make sure their workforce is heard and know that they are being supported throughout the pandemic.

And it also falls on employees to take advantage of the existing employer-sponsored mental health resources in place that are designed for times like these.

We are all going through this together. And it will take all of our individual actions to come back stronger and more resilient.

About the author 

Chris Gory

Chris Gory is the founder of Orchard Benefits (formerly Insurance Portfolio Financial Services Inc.), a brokerage launched in 1999 that helps companies build the best benefits programs for their employees. Chris is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, and works with over 60 startup companies including Wattpad, 500px, and VarageSale. He is an advisor at the Ryerson Digital Media Zone and at the OneEleven startup hub, and he's led talks about employee benefits and insurance at several startup accelerators including Extreme Startups. Chris has also been featured in the Toronto Star and The Globe & Mail, and he's been a member of the Board of Directors of the Applied Client Network, an international association of independent insurance professionals, since 2012.


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