Survey data shows we are feeling anxious and crave real connection, but say we’re doing “fine”. For Mental Health Week, Canadian Mental Health Association Oxford promotes social connection to protect mental health in these difficult times
(WOODSTOCK, ON – May 4, 2020) – Most people rely on shortcuts to describe their emotional state—even during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to new data released today by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with Maru/Matchbox, 77 per cent of those asked “how are you?” rely on “I’m fine, thanks” to express how they’re doing, despite the fact that they are feeling more negative emotions than positive ones these days (53% negative vs. 47% positive). The data were released to mark Canada’s 69th annual Mental Health Week, which runs May 4-10, 2020.
Despite a pandemic-driven growth in video-conferencing and social media usage, Canadians are feeling more isolated than ever (up 12 points from 39% to 47% in less than one month) and crave real, meaningful connections. In fact, two-thirds of Canadians (66%) report they would like to experience more meaningful social interactions in their daily life.
“Most Canadians want more social connection, yet they’re reluctant to have the kind of honest, open conversations that build the connection they crave,” says Margaret Eaton, national CEO of CMHA. “In our society, it’s a cultural norm to ask people how they’re doing, but not to expect, nor provide, a truthful answer. This Mental Health Week, it’s time to get real about how we feel. It’s clear we need each other more than ever.”
Prior to the global pandemic, loneliness was already a major public health concern. People with weak or few social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and suicide. And a lack of strong relationships has the same negative impact on life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Due to physical distancing measures, people are isolated in their homes, missing out on family events and in-person activities and it appears they’re feeling it. Almost half of Canadians are feeling anxious (47%), and only eight per cent are feeling happy. As we face social distancing measures, it’s important to note that people don’t need to be close to feel close.
Strong social networks lead to better self-esteem, coping mechanisms and a sense of well-being, and reduce depression and distress by providing emotional support, companionship and opportunities for meaningful social engagement.
CMHA Oxford is offering a live webinar on Facebook on Thursday, May 7, at 12:00 PM to discuss Grief in Isolation with Christine Hillis, an Urgent Needs Case Manager with CMHA Oxford. This free webinar will provide insight into recognizing grief, normalizing grief, and personal supports. Hillis will also be available for questions. Submit your question ahead of time here.
GivingTuesday Canada is also hosting a “GivingTuesdayNow” on Tuesday, May 5, to support all frontline workers, including non-profits like CMHA Oxford continuing to provide community mental health support. Community donations are integral to the continuance of programs at CMHA Oxford, including Peer Support and Oxford County Walk-In Counselling with CMHA Oxford. Please join us on GivingTuesdayNow or consider making a donation today here.
The focus of this year’s Mental Health Week is to promote social connection and the role it plays in good mental health. To get involved, you can:
- Learn more about your mental health and how to feel close even when we can’t be at mentalhealthweek.ca/yourmentalhealth
- Share your support on social media by downloading a toolkit at mentalhealthweek.ca/toolkit and using hashtags #GetReal #MentalHealthWeek and #TogetherApart
- If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact Reach Out 24/7 online or by calling 1-866-933-2023
Mental Health Week was introduced by CMHA in 1951 and has since become a Canadian tradition. To learn more, please visit www.mentalhealthweek.ca
About the Data
CMHA partnered with Maru/Matchbox to conduct an online survey among a total of 1,507 Canadian adults on April 15, 2020. A probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, nineteen times out of twenty. The sample was weighted to reflect the Canadian adult population according to the most recent Census data. Additional data was taken from Maru’s ongoing, near-daily FEEL, BEHAVE, THINK COVID-19 tracking study. For more information, please go to www.marureports.com/coronavirus