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April 24, 2020

Supporting your mental health during COVID-19

Coronavirus
covid19
Mental Health

COVID-19 has catapulted us into strange and unprecedented times. Like all Canadians, health care workers have had their way of life turned upside down; we are all learning to adapt to a new way of life. The nature of our work has also changed dramatically. Not only are we on the front lines of this global pandemic, but many of us are worried about keeping ourselves, our patients and our families safe.

Needless to say, it’s understandable if our stress levels are higher these days. Feelings of anxiety, isolation and even exhaustion are all normal responses to these significant changes in our lives.

It’s okay not to be okay.

Now more than ever, it’s important to look out for each other and ourselves. We all need a bit more self-care and self-compassion.

Managing your anxiety

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proposes the following ways to manage your anxiety during the pandemic:

  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body:
    • Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate.
    • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Obtaining mental health support

Recent CFNU research shows that nurses feel more comfortable expressing their anxieties and feelings to fellow nurses who can better appreciate their particular situation. If you can, lend a compassionate ear, but please know that there are mental health professionals ready and willing to help you and your colleagues.

Employee Assistance Program

Your unions have fought for your access to Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). This valuable resource is available anytime; calls are answered by mental health professionals with a background in counselling, social work or psychology. They can also refer you to external community resources if your needs require more than short-term counselling.

For more information on EAP, please speak with your employer or your union.

The Canadian Psychological Association

The Canadian Psychological Association has called on on all registered psychology practitioners to consider donating some of their time to provide psychological services to front line health care providers who may be feeling stressed, overwhelmed or distressed by being on the front lines of this health crisis.

On their website, you will find a list of psychologists who have agreed to return calls for requests for service within 24 hours of their receipt and to provide services at no charge.

Kids Help Phone is supporting frontline health care workers

Kids Help Phone has stepped up to offer mental health support to frontline health care workers during this difficult time with the following options:

  • In partnership with Crisis Text Line, Kids Help Phone is offering crisis response across Canada, for all ages. In this moment of heightened anxiety, we are always there in any moment of need to support you. Text “FRONTLINE” to 741741 to access free and confidential 24/7 mental health support in both official languages.
  • They have partnered with the Government of Canada and other partners to create a web-based platform for mental health and addictions support services called Wellness Together Canada. This service is available to adults in Canada for free, 24/7.
  • They published a number of online tools and clinically researched resources on their website for supporting the young people in your life during COVID-19. This may be helpful to members supporting the young people closest to them. Our confidential 24/7 phone-based counselling service (1-800-668-6868) and texting service for youth (“CONNECT” to 686868) are available to young people everywhere.

If you experience any form of acute mental distress, please dial 911 or contact your local crisis line.

Crisis response training

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has developed three crisis response training programs for essential workers: Caring for Yourself, Caring for your Team, and Caring for Others. Registration for these courses will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be available at no-cost for essential workers.

Overview of courses

Crisis Response training – Caring for Yourself (2 hours) – Participants will be introduced to the Mental Health Continuum and the Big 4 Coping Strategies, to help learn how to better understand their own mental wellness, notice if they might be moving into unwell areas, use practical actions to help with stress, and know when to reach out to get professional help.

Crisis Response training – Caring for your Team (3 hours) – Participants will be introduced to the Mental Health Continuum, the Big 4 Coping Strategies, and Ad Hoc Incident Review to help learn how to better understand
their own and their team’s mental wellness, notice if they might be moving into unwell areas, use practical actions to help with stress, know when to reach out to get professional help and learn tips to support team members.

Crisis Response Training – Caring for Others (2 hours) – will focus on how to create a safe space to have conversations about mental health and/or substance use problems. This training will prepare participants to have conversations confidently about mental health during a crisis, with their family, friends, communities, and workplaces. Participants will also be taught the skills required to respond to a mental health crisis until professional help arrives.

Resources for parents

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reminds us that this may be a very challenging time for children and adolescents.

Click here for tips on how to talk to your children and family about COVID-19 and its impact (PDF).

Watch our Facebook Live

On May 4, 2020, CFNU President Linda Silas held a Facebook Live event to dicuss ways we can better support our mental health through the COVID-19 pandemic. The conversation featured Candice Bellegarde, registered psychiatric nurse and Dr. Jeff Morley, registered psychologist and board-certified expert in traumatic stress.

Calming your mind

If you’re looking for ways to unwind and disconnect from all the news, the Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union and the New Brunswick Nurses Union have created an “escape” section on their website. It’s jam-packed with e-books, virtual tours, games, guided meditation videos, exercises, hobby tutorials and more.

Check out NSNU’s Escape page here.

Check out NBNU’s Mind Spa here.