COVID-19: Taking Care of Mental Health

(1) Mental health (general)

1.  Coping with stress and anxiety / Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

**While it is important to be informed and to take action to limit the spread of infection, the amount of information and attention on this topic can increase stress and anxiety.

1-a.  Strategies to maintain your mental wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic
Some might apply to you and some might not – or they may need to be adapted to suit you personally, your personality, where and with whom you live, or your culture. Please be creative and experiment with these ideas and strategies.

  • Accept that some anxiety and fear is normal
  • Seek credible information
  • Assess your personal risk
  • Find a balance: Stay tuned in, but know when to take a breather
  • Bring an intentional mindset to unplugging
  • Deal with problems in a structured way
  • Remember that you are resilient and be careful with the “What ifs”
  • Challenge worries and anxious thoughts
  • Decrease other stress
  • Practice Relaxation and meditation
  • Seek support
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Eat healthily
  • Avoid substance use – including smoking and vaping, caffeine and alcohol
  • Get proper rest and sleep
  • Stay active

**To see the description of each point and see other topics listed below including the self-assessment tools for stress level, ability to cope stress, and anxiety level, please go to the CAMH full article from here. (If you have difficulty navigating the page, contact CAMH or JSS).

  • I still can’t cope. Now what?
  • Assess your stress levels

2. Quarantine and Isolation / CAMH

2-a. Dealing with isolation (during quarantine, self-isolation, etc.)

  • Keep busy
  • Social interaction
  • Self-care
  • Prepare ahead

2-b. Supporting a loved one

Most spread of COVID-19 is between those who have close contact, so it is critical to create distance between the person at risk and others in the household. Unfortunately, this can worsen feelings of loneliness or abandonment, especially for someone who has a pre-existing mental illness or developmental problem. Here is how you can support a loved one:

  • Try to use a phone or computer to communicate instead of physically seeing
  • Be a good listener.
  • With permission, provide factual information without getting into an argument.
  • Ask what they make of the information you shared.
  • Ask about their general health, food they might need, tasks that need to be done and other ways you might help them.
  • Help them stay distracted with work, hobbies, music, movies and other activities.
  • Help them structure the day and encourage them to limit the amount of news they consume.
  • If they have a pre-existing mental illness, make sure they have access to their medications and that their condition is not getting worse.
  • Connect them to their health care provier or any reliable and validated online support service (e.g. Big White Wall in Ontario).

3.  Crisis Text Line

Canadians – text “741741” : free, available 24/7

4.  Distress Centre (free):

GTA – 416-408-4357 (HELP)  / Peel – 905-459-7777

  • Emotional support for those with chronic mental health problems
  • Support & crisis intervention for those currently experiencing distress or in crisis; Suicide prevention
  • Family violence response
  • Suicide prevention services
  • Emergency intervention and response

5.  Assaulted Women’s Helpline

Free, 1-866-863-0511 / TTY 1-866-7868 / #SAFE (#7233) on your Bell, Rogers, Fido or Telus mobile

(2) Children’s mental health

1.  How can we talk to kids about COVID-19? Be “realistically reassuring.” (Mar 19, 2020) / Canadian Paediatric Society (Dr. Robin Williams)
How can we talk to kids about COVID-19? Be “realistically reassuring.” (Mar 19, 2020) / Canadian Paediatric Society (Dr. Robin Williams)
Nurturing resilience is the key – here are some ways (for details of each point, click the link above):

  • Be reassuring.
  • Bring children into the conversation.
  • Help them sort facts from fiction.
  • Help children have some control.

2.  Talking to your anxious child about COVID-19 / Canadian Mental Health Association
Talking to your anxious child about COVID-19

  • Begin with informing yourself (using reliable resources).
  • Focus on the details that are most relevant.
  • Limit routine changes where possible.
  • Share information in as concrete a way as possible.
  • Correct misinformation.
  • For those children/teens who do well with visuals.. : Use strategic news exposure

“Anxiety makes us overestimate risk and underestimate our ability to cope.” … “The goal is to help your child realistically evaluate risks based on available information.” 

3.  COVID-19 Resources for children / Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies

4.  Children can also contact by themselves: List of Mental Health / Crisis Line Telephone Services (including 24/7 Kids Help Phone)

5.  For Kids: How can I cope with my feelings about the future? / Kids Help Phone

(3)  Supporting Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

1.  Resources for Parents / Surrey Place
Resources for Parents / Surrey Place
The tools and activities in the link above have been curated by their clinicians to help parents continue their child’s education and encourage play that is enriching. You will find tools to support your child’s understanding of virus health and safety, as well as information and activities for at-home learning.
Resources include: educational games and videos, speech language and augmentative communication resources, exercises to support a health mind and body, ways to support individuals with autism through uncertain times (below article), etc.

2.  Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times / Autism Focused Intervention Resources & Models (AFIRM)
Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times  (AFIRM)
The following 7 support strategies are designed to meet the unique needs of individuals with autism during this period of uncertainty. See the details of each strategy and the full article from above article link. It also includes the links to its full package that contains resources to help individuals with autism understand (e.g. social narrative, visual support).

  1. Support understanding
  2. Offer opportunities for expression
  3. Prioritize coping and calming skills
  4. Maintain routines
  5. Build new routines
  6. Foster connections (from a distance)
  7. Be aware of changing behaviours 

**Go back to the COVID-19: