Prevention and mental health
For many Canadians, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of watching for symptoms of mental health concerns you or your loved ones may be exhibiting. Careful monitoring is critical for practicing preventative health measures that can help you and your loved ones stay healthy and better manage mental health conditions.
The statistics are jarring. Anxiety, depression and loneliness have all reached their highest levels since the early days of the pandemic. Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) reports that one in four Canadians say they not only required mental health support in the past year, but could not access the help they needed.1
Anxiety and depression affect all ages. However, Canadians 18 to 39 years old have been particularly hard hit. One third report anxiety, slightly fewer report loneliness, and over one quarter have experienced feelings of depression.1 Children and youth are also feeling the effects. They do best in stable, structured environments, but the disruption of the pandemic has made it far more challenging for children and youth to thrive.2
Emotional stressors are already difficult to manage. Unfortunately, they can and often do manifest physically as well. Digestive issues, fatigue, insomnia and substance abuse are all common consequences.3
Take a preventative approach to mental health
Physical activity can work wonders in helping to keep you and your loved ones physically and emotionally healthy. Even a modest amount of exercise triggers endorphins that can make us feel better emotionally. Try a brisk 10-minute walk and you may notice improvements in your alertness, stress, energy levels and mood. Choose an activity you enjoy, such as gardening, housework or walking the dog. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to be effective. Plus, it’s free and always available to you. Incorporate it into your preventative health routine, but make sure your doctor gives you the green light first.
Like physical activity, eating well can provide anyone with a greater sense of wellbeing. A balanced diet can help prevent and better manage a range of mental health conditions, such as depression. The components of a balanced diet include healthy amounts of proteins, essential fats, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water. Speaking with your doctor can help determine the best strategies for safely changing your diet to one that works best for you.
For many, it’s easier said than done. But because of the significant toll smoking takes on people’s mental and physical health, it’s important to seek out help and support so you can banish tobacco from your life. While some people with mental health concerns find that smoking relieves their symptoms, it’s only a temporary effect. Government-sponsored support programs are available.
See your doctor
One of the most important steps you can take in your preventative health routine for mental health is to have a routine check-in with your medical health professional. The government of Canada offers helpful guidance on finding a doctor, dentist or other specialist. This is particularly important if you’re new to Canada.4
Medications for mental health
Certain mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, bi-polar disease and more can be managed and improved with medications prescribed by your doctor. A combination of professional mental health therapy from a registered specialist plus medication can be very effective for many people. The main thing to remember is that nothing changes if nothing changes. So don’t hesitate to bring up mental health concerns with your doctor to get the help you or your loved ones need. Be proactive.5
Always remember, mental health is health. Include it in your loved one’s preventative health care routine. Follow the list above6 and consider Alumni Health & Dental insurance to help reduce the stress that can come with the cost of out-of-pocket expenses not covered by government health insurance plans.
Don’t worry, be happy. Be preventative, and be happier!
Individual circumstances may vary. Always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.
1 “Anxiety, depression, loneliness at highest levels among Canadians since early pandemic: survey”, CBC News 2022. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/anxiety-depression-loneliness-study-1.6327708
2 “The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of Canadian children and youth”, FACETS, 2021. https://www.facetsjournal.com/doi/10.1139/facets-2021-0078
3 “The gut-brain connection”, Harvard Health School, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection
4 “Health Care in Canada: Find doctors and dentists”, Government of Canada, 2021. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/new-immigrants/new-life-canada/health-care/find-doctors.html
5 “Medications for Mental Illness”, CMHA, 2018. https://cmha.ca/brochure/medications-for-mental-illness/
6 “Physical health and mental health”, The Mental Health Foundation, 2022. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/physical-health-and-mental-health#:~:text=Our%20bodies%20and%20minds%20are,insomnia%2C%20restlessness%20and%20difficulty%20concentrating.