May 4 – 10, 2020 is the Canadian Mental Health Association’s (CMHA) annual Mental Health Week.
This year’s theme is the importance of social connection for mental health. The campaign calls for Canadians to #GetReal about how we really feel so we can connect with others in a meaningful way.
“How are you” is a common greeting that most of us are asked every day. Unfortunately, it’s not so common to provide (or expect) a truthful answer. When we “go through the motions”, we miss opportunities to connect with our friends, family and others.
This Mental Health Week, let’s practice saying more than just “I’m fine”. Let’s have real conversations with our friends, neighbours, classmates and coworkers about how we’re really doing.
Not every “how are you?” needs to turn into a deep conversation, but we all need emotional support and to feel close with others. Research shows that social connection and social support are factors that protect and promote positive mental health.
Connection in a time of social distancing
Everyone needs emotional support even at the best of times, but it is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic when many aspects of our lives are uncertain and we can’t be physically close with one another.
The good news is that we don’t need to be close to feel close. In fact, some experts argue that social distancing should actually be called physical distancing, because even if we can’t be close physically, we need to stay close emotionally.
Fortunately, things like phone calls, video chats, online games and other digital technologies make it easy to maintain social connections even when we cannot be in the same room.
During this pandemic and throughout the recovery from it, feeling socially connected can protect our mental health, help us cope better with the uncertainty and stress, and rebound better afterwards.
There are many ways we can stay connected even when we are apart from our friends, family and others.
- Start a group chat in a messaging app
- Set up a video call with a friend, family member or group
- Organize an online game night
- Mail someone a card, letter or gift
- Text a friend just to ask how they’re doing
- Spend quality time with the people you live with
- Go for a walk or bike ride. Smile and say hello to the people you pass.
- Tell someone when you’re feeling down or struggling
- Talk to at least one person a day, whether it’s by text, phone, video or in person at home or from a distance
Most importantly, when you ask someone how they’re doing, ask them how they’re really doing and pay attention to what they say. When someone you’re close with asks how you’re doing, be honest with them.
Learn mental health coping skills
Released at the start of Mental Health Week, our newest course, Your Mental Health and Well-Being, aims to promote and provide mental health awareness and assist youth in managing their mental health and well-being.
This course was developed in partnership with our partner, Service Hospitality, with input from the Saskatchewan division of the Canadian Mental Health Association.