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April 24, 2020

Supporting your mental health

Mental Health

Between the pandemic and a dire staffing shortage, health care workers are under immense pressure. Over the last few years, the nature of our work has changed dramatically. Many of us are worried about keeping ourselves, our families and our patients safe.

Needless to say, it’s understandable if our levels of stress, anxiety and exhaustion are higher than usual.

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.

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.

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

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.

Wellness Together Canada

Wellness Together Canada is Canada’s first and only online platform offering immediate, 24/7 mental health and substance abuse support for all ages – and it is funded entirely by the Government of Canada. CFNU has partnered with Wellness Together Canada to share this resource with health care workers, their families and their patients. The platform offers a stepped care approach, where users choose the level and types of support they are most comfortable with – from a mental health self-assessment, to mindfulness workshops, to live phone, video or text counselling with a mental health professional or crisis responder.

Go to for free support, available 24/7. You can also access the service anonymously if you prefer.
For immediate crisis support, front line workers are encouraged to text FRONTLINE to 741741.

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.

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.

On November 2, 2020, Linda hosted a Facebook Live chat with Wellness Together Canada partners Kathy Hay, CEO of Kids Help Phone, Sean Slater, executive VP of martketing for Homewood Health, and AnnMarie Churchill, executive director of Stepped Care Solutions. The Facebook Live event focused on the mental health supports that health care workers can access through Wellness Together Canada.

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.

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.