CAMH survey shows pandemic affecting mental health, but anxiety level may be accelerating

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Results from a new Toronto, Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) survey indicate the pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of Canadians.”What is unique about this pandemic is it affects everyone,” said Samantha Wells, director of the Institute for Mental Health Research Policy at CAMH.

“It is ubiquitous and everyone is affected in some way, shape or form. ”

The study selected more than 2,000 Canadians – about half in early May, and the other half in late May and asked a series of questions to determine the effects of the pandemic on mental health. It was a collaboration between CENTER and Delvinia, a global research technology company.

The online survey included English-speaking Canadians aged 18 and over, reflecting the distribution of the Canadian population in terms of age, sex and region. (The survey is comparable to a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

He found that 20% of Canadians surveyed say they experienced loneliness during the pandemic. One in five also reported feeling moderate to severe anxiety, due to factors such as job loss and fear of contracting the virus.

Stacy Ann Buchanan, in Toronto, the actress, director and mental health lawyer, experienced the results of the study firsthand. She has struggled with anxiety most of her life, and who knows how difficult it can be to deal with.

“Everything was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t control what was going on in my body and mind,” she said.

Stacy Ann Buchanan, in Toronto, actress, director and mental health lawyer, says the stress and isolation of the pandemic has sparked her anxiety. To help you deal with it, she started walking with my daughter and journaling. “(Ousama Farag / CBC)

Buchanan says the feelings of stress and isolation from the pandemic in recent weeks have sparked his anxiety.

“It’s a feeling of being overwhelmed and also the feeling that I’m not productive,” says Buchanan. “And realizing it, OK, it’s not just what’s happening to me, it’s collective. ”

CAMH staff were particularly surprised, however, by a result in the investigation. When the second group was interviewed two weeks after the first sample, the percentage of people who said they were anxious fell by four percentage points – from 25.5% in early May, to 21.5 percent towards end of this month. It was a small change, but one that researchers consider significant.

“The explanation that we come up with today is that it is possible that people are really adjusting to the pandemic,” Wells said.

“They used to get, for example, to go shopping with their masks, they become more and more relaxed and less stressed. “

CAMH says a small drop reported feelings of anxiety among Canadians surveyed in late May could be a sign that people are used to the social changes brought about by the pandemic of physical and distance measurements. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

The study also asked Canadians about patterns of binge drinking and whether they had been drinking more during the pandemic, as well as feelings of depression. About 24% of respondents said they were drinking more than usual, and 20% said they were more depressed.

Of those who said they felt depressed, the numbers were slightly higher among young people between the ages of 18 and 39, and those with children under the age of 18 at home.

These variables remained at roughly the same level, among respondents throughout the entire survey period, and the researchers point out that this data alone indicates that Canadians continue to experience serious health effects. mental as a result of this pandemic.

“Canadians face an enormous amount of stress and anxiety,” said Wells. “They may have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, they may be caring for children at home while balancing responsibilities, and they are socially isolated now. “

Samantha Wells, director of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH, says one of the objectives of the survey is to help health care providers prepare for the potential effects if a second wave of virus hits Canada. (CAMH)

At a time when the vast majority of Canadians were isolated at home, 23% of those surveyed said that they had to face loneliness at least three days a week.

This number remained unchanged between the first group of respondents in early May and the second in late May. Young people between the ages of 18 and 24 felt the highest degree of loneliness at 28%, compared to a lower percentage of 22% for adults between the ages of 40 and 59.

When people were further questioned, the researchers found that changes in mental health were connected to life changes during the pandemic.

“We are also finding significant associations of these feelings of anxiety and loneliness with people who lost their jobs during the pandemic, with people who are worried, whether they have themselves or someone from their family COVID-19 contract. These people are particularly likely to suffer from depression, loneliness and anxiety, “Well Center said.

She added that CAMH jumped at the chance to collect this data, along with Delvinia to determine how this unprecedented event is affecting the mental health of Canadians. The goal is to use the knowledge for future hospital programming, as well as to prepare healthcare providers for what may come with the second wave of the virus hitting this country.

“We may be facing a mental health crisis,” Wells said. “We don’t know what will happen next. But certainly, if there is another wave of the pandemic, there is much to be concerned about in terms of the mental health of Canadians. ”

This is why Well claims that it is essential to collect as much information as possible about the ways that Canadians feel.

“Our goal was to work with CAMH so that they could track mental health issues during the pandemic and make the data available to health professionals,” said Adam Froman, founder and chief of the direction of Delvinia.

CAMH Wells says, “If there is another wave of the pandemic, there is much to be concerned about in terms of the mental health of Canadians.” (Michael Wilson / CBC)

For her part, Buchanan is trying her best to follow the advice she’s already shared with others on her social media accounts, and in a documentary on mental health issues in the Black community, she has produced in 2015 on how to manage anxiety. She is practicing self-care, and trying to be aware of her symptoms.

“I started walking with my daughter and journaling,” says Buchanan. “It also helped that I took social media, breaks and didn’t watch the news as often as before. ”

The results of the study will be published on the hospital’s website on June 17 alongside tools and resources for those who feel vulnerable. CAMH also has plans to conduct at least four other similar surveys to continue monitoring the mental health of Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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