Mental health of Canadians experiences a “paradigm shift” in August

The latest Mental Health Index released by Morneau Shepell says the optimism that followed July reopening has disappeared

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      COVID-19 continues to mess with the mental health of Canadians. The relative optimism felt across the country during the reopening of the economy that started in July has dissipated.

      That’s according to the latest monthly Mental Health Index report released by Morneau Shepell.

      The report says that anxieties about a second wave, personal well-being, and a return to school have replaced economic uncertainties as the leading contributors to a decline in mental health among Canadians.

      After a period of what the report calls “slow but steady improvement” in mental health from April through July, there has been a “paradigm shift” in August.

      Morneau Shepell has been publishing the index since April 2020. The most recent results are based on an online survey of 3,000 Canadians.

      Most of the respondents report being employed. Twenty per cent said they are working reduced hours. Eight percent said they are unemployed.

      Morneau Shepell’s latest survey shows a worsening of Canadians’ mental health in a number of categories. It found an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and isolation, even as worker productivity has remained unchanged.

      The mental health of those working in the education sector and among postsecondary students has been the most adversely affected. Postsecondary students have consistently had the lowest score of any group.

      The “new normal”

      The authors of the report warn that for the many Canadians having difficulty navigating COVID-19, there is no “new normal.”

      “The importance of collective responsibility goes well beyond wearing a mask in public,” offers Paula Allen, Morneau Shepell’s senior vice-president of research. “We each need to look for changes in our friends and family, and offer support for those needing professional help.”

      She says that September may be a particularly difficult month for many Canadians “as they face another major change in routine” with the return of the school year.

      Other highlights in the report:

      • Women continue to have a lower mental health scores than men.
      • Individuals identifying as white have the highest mental health scores. Respondents to the survey who identified as Latin, South or Central American, and East Asian reported lower mental health scores.
      • Quebec, British Columbia, and the Maritimes showed the largest declines in mental health.
      • Canadians with children reported a markedly lower mental health score than those without children.
      • Those employed in the automotive industry, real estate, and mining and oil and gas sectors showed higher mental health scores.
      • Worry (25 percent), calm (19 percent), and frustration (19 percent) were the most reported emotions among those surveyed.
      • The upcoming U.S. election and anti-racism each registered as the most “top of mind” issue for four percent of the respondents.

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