Prioritizing Your Mental Health


Canadians that responded to a new Angus Reid Institute poll said their mental health has worsened, including 10 per cent who said it has worsened “a lot.” One out of five Canadians experience a mental illness or mental health concern and this pandemic has the potential to exacerbate existing mental illnesses. Worry about the illness and about finances, and an increased sense of social isolation can negatively affect anyone’s mental health, but can have a particularly negative impact on people with anxiety or depression.
There are supports available to help people with mental health concerns, whether new or previously existing, to cope during this challenging time.

Virtual Therapy

For those that have seen a therapist regularly in the past, it is likely that your therapist is continuing to offer sessions online. If you’re unsure, you can reach out to them and see if they have any recommendations for virtually continuing your therapy. If you have never seen a therapist before, this article from the Toronto Star provides some virtual therapy options available. You can also contact any psychotherapist in your area to see if they are offering virtual appointments.

It can be hard to make the transition from in-person to virtual therapy, but there are some things you can do to get the most out of your sessions.

Your therapist is expected to maintain confidentiality and ensure they are in a private space where no one can overhear what you’re talking about. However, it would also be beneficial for you if you could do your session in a private space in your home and remain undisturbed by anyone you may live with. You can request the people you live with not interrupt you during your session, and if you have kids, organize an activity that can keep them busy for the duration. Don’t worry if your kids happen to make noise in the background – your therapist should expect potential life interruptions.

A spotty internet connection also has the potential to disrupt your therapy session. If possible, test the platform you will be using to call a friend to make sure it works and you understand how to use it, so you aren’t disrupted by technology. To make your virtual session go as smoothly as possible, imagine you’re talking to a friend, so that the conversation flows naturally. If you were seeing a therapist in the past, it’s likely they’ll pick up where they left off. If you’re seeing the therapist for the first time, they might ask you to fill out some documents in advance. Whether this is a new or established relationship, it’s important to take the time to build rapport over this new medium and work through any concerns you have about virtual therapy with your therapist.

Getting the Most out of Your Virtual Therapy Session

Even once you’ve figured out the logistical concerns, you want to make sure that you get the most out of your virtual therapy session.
It can be harder for many people to concentrate on a virtual conversation, and you may be unsure of how to keep the conversation going. It may be helpful for you to come prepared with a list of topics you’d like to discuss to give yourself a roadmap. You may also want to ask your therapist to help hold you accountable after your sessions which can include things like homework assignments or notes emailed post-session.

It can be hard to immediately get back to work or back into the swing of things after a therapy session. You may find it useful to take some time after your session to process your feelings post therapy. This can include writing down your thoughts, lessons learned and things you want to remember.

You should schedule your sessions based on the time where you can be most present and committed. If you’re not a morning person, shift your sessions to later in the day. If you used to have lunchtime appointments but find it difficult to get back to working from home right afterwards, try switching to after work appointments.

Another thing that might help you focus in your session is turning off your video or hiding it from your view. Seeing your face on screen can be distracting during your virtual session. You want to be focused on what your therapist is saying rather than what you look like on camera.

It can feel easier to cancel or skip any appointment, including therapy, when it’s done virtually. However, it can be more beneficial than ever to prioritize your mental health during this challenging time.

Mental Health Resources Available

In addition to the mental health supports you’d have access to at any time that have gone virtual, there are other mental health supports that have been specifically introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government of Canada has introduced the Wellness Together Canada portal which addresses low mood, worry, substance use, social isolation and relationship issues. Canadians can use this portal to get credible information and connect with peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other health professionals for confidential chats, or phone calls.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has also released a page with resources and answers to questions that are related to coping with mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can view that resource here

Shoppers Drug Mart is offering the public free access to a stress-management program in partnership with SilverCloud Health until June 15, 2020. This platform provides activities to help you develop coping skills and strategies for stress and anxiety.  

Although not exclusive to the COVID-19 pandemic ConnexOntario which is funded by the Government of Ontario, provides free and confidential health services information for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness and/or gambling. They are available 24/7 through telephone, chat or email.

These are just some of the resources available to help you to prioritize your mental health during this difficult time. This pandemic means more people are struggling with their mental health than ever, but\ there are supports out there that can help.

Tags: mental health, covid-19