Canada’s Most Unwanted (Part 1 of 2)
/ Author: Quentin Steen
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Canada’s Most Unwanted (Part 1 of 2)

Is a two-headed mental health monster wreaking havoc in your life? In these pandemic days, it can be hard to tell. Learn how you may be under attack—and not even know it—and what you can do

By Quentin Steen, Representative

What would you say are the two most significant mental health problems in Canada?

If you said anxiety and depression, you would be correct. Several factors contribute to this sobering reality, but that’s a series of discussions on its own.

In these unprecedented times, the COVID-19 virus is bringing to light the mental health realities of anxiety and depression across Canada and impacting people like never before (at least in my lifetime), including ourselves and our family, friends, and coworkers.

So what can we do about it? Good question.

You may find some solace in knowing that tools are available to all of us, including our children, which can help us effectively manage our anxiety and depression, especially during this time.

Anxiety and depression have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Over the last number of years, my journey toward wellness has taught me much about this two-headed monster.

I may have lost a battle or two along the way, but I haven’t lost the war. I know better now what my triggers are and how-to steps to manage them better.

Let’s begin by taking a look at anxiety to better understand it and how it can morph into a disorder requiring professional assistance.

Anxiety is a normal feeling we all experience at some time. It’s a natural response that is useful in helping us avoid situations that may bring us harm (physical or otherwise), such as contemplating the wisdom of walking down an unknown dark alley late at night to save time on our way home.

Anxiety can also be useful in helping to motivate us to solve everyday problems, such as a work deadline that’s fast approaching. It can help us to strategize the resources we need to succeed.

Many situations in our daily lives can cause our anxiety, such as divorce, death, loss of health, or accidents. But the situation doesn’t have to be negative for us to experience anxiety. Events such as marriage, birth, or graduation are very positive, but they can still cause us to feel anxious.

Anxiety varies in its severity and can range from mild uneasiness to full-blown panic attacks. It can last for a few moments to days, weeks, months—or even a lifetime.

People with anxiety-related disorders, like myself, live with excessive levels of anxiety that significantly interfere with our day-to-day living.

With normal anxiety, a person may feel anxious just for a limited time and then go back to a normal physical, emotional, and behavioural state. Those feelings are appropriate to the situation. COVID-19 has upended that for many of us. What is “normal” anxiety these days?

Along with what’s happening in the world around us, it’s important to recognize that what might be considered a normal anxiety reaction can be different from person to person depending on our family context, cultural beliefs and expectations, and even our worldview. These considerations are important when trying to discern whether your anxiety is normal or a disorder.

An anxiety-related disorder differs from normal anxiety in the following ways:

  It is more severe or intense.

  It is long lasting.

  It interferes with a person’s ability to function (e.g., work, relationships, emotional states, ability to handle everyday stress).

  It occurs when a person is not in a state of danger.

Some of the physical symptoms can include trembling, tingling, dizzy spells, sweating, diarrhea, or needing to pass water more than usual. As many as one in ten Canadians suffer from an anxiety-related disorder. It’s a real medical condition—not a character flaw.

So which one are you? Where do you land along the anxiety continuum?

A good place to start is by checking the Goldberg Anxiety Scale, developed by Sir David Goldberg. This internationally recognized scale asks some key questions to see how your anxiety levels compare with other people your age.

The quiz is just a screening tool and is not intended to diagnose anxiety disorder. But if you rate high for anxiety on the scale, seek professional assessment. People with anxiety scores of five or higher have a 50 percent chance of having a mental health problem. The higher the score, the higher the probability.

The good news is that help is available to treat your anxiety. But to get help, you need to know whether your anxiety is normal or a condition that needs treatment. During these abnormal times, that may be hard to figure out.

So if you feel that anxiety is getting the better of you, take the quiz, and see whether it might be a good idea for you to talk to a professional.

Quentin Steen is a certified mental health first aid instructor for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

Get your BRAIN right and your MIND will follow!

4 Mental Health Resources to Help You During the Pandemic

  1. Stronger Minds features videos and quick reads from mental health experts, activities to help you gain resilience, and ask-an-expert videos in response to questions.
  2. WellCan offers free well-being resources to help Canadians develop coping strategies and build resilience to help deal with uncertainty, mental health, and substance abuse concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support provides free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.
  4. CLAC is also continuing to make available to all members and their families our employment and family assistance program. If you or your loved ones are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out for help today.
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