How mental health support can ease pandemic-related anxiety

Excerpt: About 40% of Canadians say their mental health deteriorated during the pandemic. Mental health struggles are a normal response to a major crisis and accessing the many free mental health resources available can help people to bounce back. Reaching out to family and friends to talk about feelings of anxiety or depression, along with regular exercise, meditation and healthy eating can help ease worries and lift your mood too.


Canadians have shown tremendous resilience on the roller-coaster ride through the first, second and third waves of this 18-month-long pandemic. As a growing number of Canadians get double-vaccinated, this offers increased protection against COVID-19, gives people greater peace of mind, and helps society return to the next normal. But the toll that the pandemic has taken on the quality of life—higher stress, uncertainty, social isolation— and emotional well-being of many Canadians calls for another kind of booster shot to support mental health.

About 40% of Canadians reported that their mental health deteriorated over the course of the pandemic,* according to a national survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CHA) and University of British Columbia researchers. The research also found too few Canadians are accessing the mental health supports they need, and some are relying on unhealthy strategies, such as overeating and increased alcohol consumption, to cope.*

Bouncing back with a little help

Fortunately, most Canadians who are struggling with their mental health due to the pandemic are experiencing a normal—rather than abnormal— response to a major health, social and economic crisis,* according to Toronto’s CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). This suggests in a positive way that accessing mental health supports and resources can make a big difference in helping them to cope, including virtual mental care services that are much more widely available than ever before.

Under the stepped-care model of providing mental health services, people struggling with anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress can benefit from the most effective and least intensive service that meets their needs.* For many people who are struggling with mental health strains stemming from a temporary situational crisis or difficult life event, a little help from a trained healthcare professional can often be enough for them to bounce back.

Free and accessible mental health supports

Free mental health resources, such as the CMHA’s BounceBack program* and the national portal, Wellness Together Canada,* established through the Public Health Agency of Canada, make it easier to access phone counselling and coaching, crisis lines, peer support, apps, videos, articles, and programs to help with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, grief and loss, and other issues.*

Another way to help soothe feelings of anxiety or depression is by using your own support network. Reach out to family, friends or neighbours to talk about how you’re feeling, rather than waiting to hear from them.* Sharing your struggles or painful emotions with a kind, attentive listener can lift your spirits, be calming and help you feel less isolated.

While at home, getting regular exercise and adequate sleep, eating well, practicing relaxation and meditation, being kind to yourself and accepting that some anxiety and fear is normal can also help you to cope better* and be a tonic for your mental well-being as Canadians emerge from the pandemic and adapt to the next normal.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

1. UBC Faculty of Medicine. “New national survey finds Canadians’ mental health eroding as pandemic continues.” (2020), online: https://www.med.ubc.ca/news/new-national-survey-finds-canadians-mental-health-eroding-as-pandemic-continues/
2. CAMH. “Mental health in Canada: Covid-19 and beyond.” (2020), online: https://www.camh.ca/-/media/files/pdfs---public-policy-submissions/covid-and-mh-policy-paper-pdf.pdf
3. Canadian Mental Health Association. (2021), online: https://bounceback.cmha.ca/
4. Wellness Together Canada. “Help is a click away.” (2021), online: https://wellnesstogether.ca/en-CA
5. Canadian Mental Health Association. “Tools for people aged 70 and over and caregivers.” (2020), online: https://cmha.ca/blogs/tools-for-people-aged-70-and-over-and-caregivers
6. CAMH. “Coping with stress and anxiety.” (2021), https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19/coping-with-stress-and-anxiety