When was the last time that you felt really connected to the people in your life? Over the past few years, our social landscape has changed considerably, often shifting our focus from in-person connections to online connections. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an emphasis on social distancing, forcing our connections to exist solely in a digital space.
While the ability to connect with colleagues and loved ones electronically has helped many during these interesting times, the mental health challenges that Canadians face all year round are certainly being exacerbated by the lack of connection and the extended periods of isolation.
Understanding the importance of social connection, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week calls for us to #GetReal with how we really feel.
Loneliness and social isolation
Research indicates that those with weak or limited social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social and suicidal behaviours.1 Not having strong relationships also has a high impact on the risk of mortality in a way that is comparable way to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.2
So, what does this mean for us? Long before COVID-19, Canadians were trying to cope with loneliness and social isolation, further proving that we need to #GetReal about how we feel and embrace each other and the supports available to us.
Did you know: Last year, almost 10 per cent of the overall health claims processed (specifically related to counselling and drug therapy) under the Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) benefit plans were attributed to mental health.
The importance of social connection
Connecting with other people and our communities doesn’t just feel good. It’s good for our mental health. Even if we can’t be close physically with one another, we need to stay close emotionally. Phone calls, video calls and other digital technologies offer excellent opportunities for connecting face-to-face, even when we can’t be in the same room.
It’s time to #GetReal about how we feel and reach out for support.
We need to be brave and deliberate in our social connections, focusing on having real conversations with our friends, family, neighbours and co-workers about how we’re really doing. With physical distancing in effect, we are learning that we don’t have to be close to feel close. We are together, even when we're apart.
Looking for services and resources on mental health?
Benefits coverage under your Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) benefit plans include services that can provide you with support. Be sure to check your benefits booklet for specific services available to you.
If you have been prescribed medication to help treat your mental illness, you can use the My drug plan to find out if it is covered under the plan.
You can access FeelingBetterNow® (FBN). Available 24/7, this resource provides information and tools to assist with mental health. You can confidentially identify mental health issues early and take immediate action, allowing you to stay healthy and productive at work.
In addition to the many supports offered by the Government of Ontario, we have also compiled a resource page to help you and/or your family connect with resources you need.
2 Harvard Health Publishing. 2010. “The health benefits of strong relationships.” Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships