The coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns are having a devastating impact on the mental health of Canadians. Canadians from across the country are reporting record high levels of anxiety and depression as health restrictions continue to mount.

The results from the fourth part in an ongoing series of 13 polls by Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC,) show surveyed Canadians are reporting the highest levels of mental stress since the peak of the first wave of the virus.

Social isolation and working from home have proven to have a negative impact on Canadians as guidelines restricting movement stay in place, becoming the leading cause of mental stress.

The MHRC found that 22% of respondents have been diagnosed with depression and 20% received a diagnosis for anxiety, both levels are at the highest the MHRC have ever measured.

Over time, the impact of lockdowns on anxiety has not lessened and is four times higher than pre-outbreak levels. Canadians report feeling they are not handling stress and managing their mental health as well as before the pandemic.

While Manitoba and Saskatchewan reported the highest levels of anxiety and depression, the report shows an increase across the country.

MHRC board member Dr. David Dozois says that the high levels of anxiety and depression are a serious concern.

“Canadians are not receiving mental health supports at the same rate as before the pandemic,” said Dozois.

“Not only are Canadians less likely to be getting in-person support from a mental health professional, they are also less likely to be speaking to their family physician.”

Respondents reported high levels of resiliency to the challenges they face during the pandemic months, with 65% of Canadians indicating they are remaining highly resilient to the challenges they face during COVID-19.

Resiliency does not necessarily mean that the reported decline in mental health is not serious. The report from the MHRC indicates that these cases would be classified as moderate to severe on the Kessler Scale, a survey which measures psychological distress.

The latest poll for the MHRC was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights and surveyed 2.761 Canadians online. The December data was gathered before provincial governments issued stringent lockdown protocols for the holiday.   

Anyone who is experiencing struggles with their mental health are encouraged to seek advice or services.

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