(File photo)

Column: Pandemic highlights importance of mental health care and attention

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

What is a mental health crisis?

It’s a term that seems to come up a lot more nowadays with COVID-19 and all. I’d heard it prior to the pandemic and built up an understanding of what it means, and what one might look like, based on a mix of anecdotes and assumptions.

Multiple websites involved with mental-health services appear to define a mental health crisis as “any situation in which a person’s behaviour puts them at risk of hurting themselves or others, and/or prevents them from being able to care for themselves or function effectively in the community.”

While I don’t doubt the accuracy of this definition, I suspect this to be a case where words are easier to recognize and comprehend than the actual experience – even when we’re the ones experiencing it.

Prompting this train of thought was a recent report from the Salmon Arm RCMP stating officers were called to assist with multiple mental health-related calls over the May long weekend. In the same report, the staff sergeant stressed local police are frequently being called to assist those experiencing a mental-health crisis.

The same has been reported across the country, as has a surge in demand for mental health services.

Read more: Salmon Arm RCMP receive numerous calls for people experiencing mental health crisis

Read more: ‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the most common warning signs of a crisis include an inability to perform daily tasks, rapid mood swings, increased agitation, risk taking/out-of-control behaviour, paranoia, loss of touch with reality and abusive behaviour to self or someone else.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has been monitoring the mental health-impact the pandemic is having. A recent CMHA survey indicates 40 per cent of Canadians are feeling anxious or worried, 34 per cent are stressed and 31 per cent lonely or isolated.

Forty-one per cent said their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic.

To address the need for mental health care in Canada, the CMHA has been advocating for a mental health care system funded to meet the needs of Canadians, prioritizing physical, mental and emotional safety and well-being in the workplace and at home, and working to eliminate causes of distress including chronic homelessness and poverty.

It is said there are many people in B.C. who live a paycheque away from being without a place to live.

I wonder if this in some way parallels how close those experiencing one or more of the warning signs listed above are from the point of crisis?

One upside of the pandemic, I suppose, is that it has shown our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and equally deserving of our care and attention.

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