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Reach out for support

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How are you doing?

No, I really mean it. How are you actually doing?

It's a question we ask each other all the time—friend to friend, parent to child, sibling to sibling, co-worker to co-worker—but most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, don't want an honest answer, especially in this pandemic life of ours.

Most of us are barely keeping ahead of the wave of panic lapping at our heels.

Don't look back. You are not going that way.

We are worried about how far our bank accounts will go, how our parents are doing, how our kids are doing, how our friends and co-workers are doing; will all these people I care about get COVID-19? Will they survive? How will we survive the loss we are facing and grieve for what was?

If we are still working, there is guilt associated with that. But there is also a form of exhaustion as well—no one working full-time right now is experiencing anything like a normal work-life balance. There is even jealously sometimes, if we are honest—the grass is always greener...

It feels like a harsh environment, all angles and elbows, making Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry's pleading to be kind feel hollow and unattainable. Life didn't used to feel this way.

Don't look back. You are not going that way.

Perhaps that is why the Canadian Mental Health Association's (CMHA) #GetReal campaign, launched to mark the organization's annual health week May 4 to 10, struck a chord.

"In our society, it's a cultural norm to ask people how they're doing, but not to expect, nor provide, a truthful answer," said Margaret Eaton, CMHA National CEO in a release.

"This Mental Health Week, it's time to get real about how we feel. It's clear we need each other more than ever." 

No more shortcuts to connection, said Eaton. Let's say more than "I'm fine, thanks." Last month, Eaton warned of an "echo pandemic" facing Canada as the months of living this new pandemic reality drag on.

Eaton appeared as a witness before the House of Commons health committee in April, saying the pandemic had already driven a rise in demand for mental health supports.

She called out the government for failing to deliver adequate mental-health services before the novel coronavirus struck, and warned that officials must act now to prepare for the expected surge in demand.

"We won't know the full picture for some time but given the global reach of COVID-19, our experience tells us the mental-health impacts will be significant," she said.

Don't look back. You are not going that way.

We have to look forward, create new ways to support those in need as we start to live with this new normal, even if we don't feel like it.

Perhaps that partly explains Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's announcement on May 3 to spend $240.5 million to develop, expand, and launch virtual care and mental-health tools to support Canadians.

"While we all do our part to fight COVID-19, it can be a challenge to deal with everything that's happening around us and to get the help and services we need to feel well. It's important that we take care of ourselves and our families during these challenging times, and that's why we've introduced more virtual health resources and mental health tools to further support Canadians through this crisis," he said.

We have all been touched by the stories of healthcare workers who have paid the ultimate price to help those suffering from COVID-19 globally. We have also read stories of frontline workers who died by suicide.

The stress of this pandemic is real and we all have to realize it, understand its insidious nature and seek the support of our friends, family, co-workers and trained professionals where needed.

We can't go back to the way it was. We can only go forward. If you need a hand, then reach out.

There are many places to find support. To start, go to our own Whistler Community Services Society (mywcss.org), the Canadian Mental Health Association (cmha.bc.ca), www.bouncebackbc.cawww.anxietycanada.com, www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/managing-your-health/mental-health-substance-use/virtual-supports-covid-19, and Wellness Together Canada.

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