The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) shines a light on mental health during the week of May 1-7.
“While each year 1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness or mental health issue, 5 in 5 of us – that’s all people – have mental health.” – CMHA
Mental health refers to our psychological well-being. It is helpful to think of mental health as a wellness continuum that ranges from wellness to un-wellness.
What does the CARP community have to say about mental health?
COVID opened up conversations about mental health. In the fall of 2020 – mid-pandemic — CARP surveyed over 5,200 older Canadians about the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health.
The results? While only 10% of respondents sought mental health and wellness assistance during the pandemic, 42% said their mental health was ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’ as compared to before the pandemic. In addition, when given the chance to comment on mental health, over 2,500 individuals did so, providing insights into both coping strategies and challenges faced.
While 2 ½ years later the early days of the pandemic may seem far away, the mental health concerns expressed by older Canadians remain relevant:
- Respondents shared a wide range of coping strategies, including: getting outside, fitness as per ability (one person wrote of dancing in their chair), helping others, being in touch, and learning. Engagement in family life, community, or society remains an important part of coping.
Stigma is still a problem
- 76% of those who reached out for mental health help were concerned about how they would be perceived/how their relationships might be impacted.
Timely, affordable access to ongoing care
- Respondents expressed a need for timely, universal, quality, and affordable mental health assessment and ongoing supports. Many respondents had barriers in accessing help for depression and anxiety (among other diagnoses), including wait times and cost of counselling and medication.
Other factors that were seen as negatively impacting well-being and mental health were financial insecurity, and perhaps most profoundly, isolation. Isolation was particularly detrimental for those living alone or in care homes. Technology such as the internet (a barrier for some due to cost, skill or rural geography) was viewed as helpful but no replacement for face-to-face contact, activities and touch.
How is CARP advocating for mental health?
The learnings from the survey inform and align with CARP’s current advocacy efforts:
- Freedom from Ageism is a key advocacy pillar for CARP. Older adults must be heard, engaged, valued and cared for.
- CARP is advocating for access to better mental health and wellness supports in all communities. As well as advocating for mental health programming that is specific to the experience of aging, CARP is also advocating more generally for faster, better, more responsive healthcare.
- CARP is advocating for a number of other priorities that impact mental health, including financial security, caregiver supports, the ability to age at home, better long-term care facilities, and more.
We all experience challenges in our lives. But when these challenges feel overwhelming, it’s time to reach out for help. If you’re feeling uncomfortable about reaching out for help, remember that doing so means that you want to make changes or take steps towards a better tomorrow. To find a mental health professional in your community, click here.