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COVID-19: Taking a Huge Toll on our Mental Health

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The COVID-19 pandemic is casting a shadow over Mental Health Week, which is May 4-10. While attention has focused on the virus’s effect on physical health, experts have sounded the alarm on its impact on our mental health.

As Ed Arvelin, chair of OPSEU’s Mental Health and Addictions Division, explains in the video: Mental Health Tips for Social Isolation, that social interaction is a basic human need. Without it, people can experience anxiety and depression. The sudden changes to everyday life magnify the effects of isolation, while factors like lost jobs have added to the anxiety.

Particularly vulnerable to mental stress and exhaustion are the frontline workers who courageously provide essential services. They are at higher risk of getting coronavirus, and many are working both mentally and physically demanding shifts.

It’s not surprising that mental health care providers, including about 8,000 who are OPSEU members, have been very busy during this crisis. They have scrambled to provide services online and by phone.

COVID-19 has underscored the need for more resources to agencies that were already struggling to provide services before the pandemic struck. Losing loved ones to the virus is tragic enough, but we must not lose even more lives due to inadequate mental health care dollars.

Mental Health Week is a chance to raise awareness of the invaluable contributions of mental health care providers. As it falls in the middle of this pandemic, we salute our heroic members on the front lines and strongly urge the government to provide more funding so our front-line workers can do the job they’re expected to do. Please take a moment to watch a two-minute video that recognizes the dedication of OPSEU’s mental health and addictions members.

We also thank OPSEU local representatives for their continued advocacy and lobbying, particularly in helping to get Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to so many workers. There is more work to do, and our union is up to the job of ensuring our members are recognized and protected.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer