Throughout the pandemic, mental health situations have been haywire. In Canada specifically, there have been measurable fluctuations in mental health lining up in part with the ebbs and flows of pandemic spread. Luckily, there are some things that can be done, not to cure pandemic anxiety or fix mental health in an immediate, sweeping manner –– but to address the landscape broadly and for the better over time.
We're going to look at a few of these measures below.
Young students experience stress just like adults do, although they usually process it differently. With so many kids experiencing more stress than usual, we're beginning to see some urgency in addressing the matter. To give one encouraging example, EdSource reports that the state of California is now adding mental health education into the normal health classes that the state schools cover. The plan is to cover more serious mental conditions such as schizophrenia, eating disorders, PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and even substance abuse. The curriculum will include causes and symptoms of mental illness, as well as treatment and how to advocate for friends or family members who suffer from a condition.
It's just one initiative in one state in America –– but it's a fascinating blueprint as to how we can normalise mental health education.
Many of us are used to the traditional Monday-to-Friday week, with an eight-hour shift each day (at minimum). However, some companies are now looking into implementing different schedules for their employees, in the name of mental health. An article published on SymptomFind dove into this idea and pointed to several benefits of a shorter work week. It was mentioned for instance that this kind of change would leave more room for a healthy work-life balance, and that employees will more often feel refreshed and well rested. These should be looked at as essential benefits to strive for, particularly given our collective mental health state of late.
Many patients –– even those covered with good healthcare plans –– frequently find themselves in long lines for appointments, particularly with specialists. With telehealth options spreading across the world though, these wait times are expected to decrease. We’re not there yet, however. As The Star notes, even psychiatrists themselves are starting to fall to burnout, and the demand for mental health services worldwide has skyrocketed due to the pandemic. It’s at least clear though that healthcare systems are trying to implement better telehealth options together with bolstering the capacity for physical, face-to-face appointments, though.
While telehealth is helping patients get the care they need, it could still use some help. That’s where digital therapy solutions come in. For patients that have relatively manageable symptoms of mental stress or illness, there are apps that can guide them towards a better, more stable mental state. Some of these apps are free, while others require a single one-time payment or monthly subscription. Some of them also work in tandem with tools such as fitness trackers or smartwatches. Whatever the specifics though, it's encouraging that we now have more resources than ever for fighting mental health problems. What remains is to educate people about the benefits of these tools, and make it clear what they can accomplish, and for whom.
It might not be the best idea to go to a crowded, indoor gym during a pandemic. However, being socially isolated has caused the general population’s mental and physical health to steadily decline over the last two years. We (understandably) tend to stay at home all day without getting appropriate amounts of activity. Exercise cannot cure mental illness or stress, but it can still reduce symptoms and provide important benefits in general. With this in mind, we recommend getting your physical activity in even if you’re self-isolating at home, and to follow any health protocols in your area if you choose to go outside.
While we still have quite a ways to go with regard to improving mental health in general, there are steps that can be taken. Governments across the world are starting to implement programs, and companies are looking into helping their employees in this area. The hope is that from this point forward, we'll continue to prioritise the matter, and continue to love in the right direction.