World Mental Health Day, on October 10th, comes at a time when our daily lives have changed considerably as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The past months have brought challenges to many, particularly for people with mental health conditions, many experiencing even greater social isolation than before. (World Health Organization)
Here are some experts from McGill University who can provide comment on this issue:
Nancy Heath, James McGill Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and Associate Dean, Research and Innovation, Faculty of Education
“There is a strong need to undertake general mental health resilience building programs to address the overwhelming numbers of youths and young adults who experience significant mental health difficulties. Only in this way will we provide the needed support and manage the overwhelming demand for our mental health services.”
Nancy Heath is a James McGill Professor and the Interim Chair of the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, as well as the Associate Dean of Research and Innovation in the Faculty of Education. Her research program explores resilience and adaptive functioning in young people at-risk (children, adolescents, and young adults).
nancy.heath [at] mcgill.ca (English)
Karen Hetherington, Faculty Lecturer, School of Social Work
“COVID-19 has widened persistent mental health inequities making things worse for those who are already vulnerable. The results of recent research undertaken by the British Columbia Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association and the United Kingdom Mental Health Foundation showed that mental health has declined for 44% of women and 32% of men since the beginning of the crisis. Despite these alarming figures, a high percentage of Canadians have maintained a healthy lifestyle, have begun exercising and have stayed connected to family and friends. However, in order to respond to this reality, we need more than individual measures. We will need to confront the impact of colonization, privilege, inequity, and injustice that characterize our mental health care system.”
Karen Hetherington is a Faculty Lecturer at the School of Social Work with nearly 50 years of experience in social services. She currently sits on the National Board of Directors of the Canadian Mental Health Association. Her key interests are in the area of mental health prevention and promotion, community development and international social work.
karen.hetherington [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)
Tina Montreuil, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology
“The COVID-19 pandemic landscape has highlighted the critical importance of assisting children, youth and families on how to build mental health well-being and resilience in a changing world. Given that 70 per cent of adults living with mental health problems report their symptoms began in childhood or young adulthood, the time has come to educate and inform key stakeholders and knowledge users not only that mental health resilience can be developed, but also on ways in which it can be achieved.”
Tina Montreuil is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and an Associate Member of the Department of Psychiatry. Her research focuses on investigating the role of emotion regulation, attitudes, and beliefs on the development and intergenerational transmission of psychopathology and how symptoms of mental health problems might interfere with self-regulated learning in a group context and ultimately, educational achievement.
tina.montreuil [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)
Samuel Veissière, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Co-director, Culture, Mind and Brain Program
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and amplified a broad set of pre-existing health, social, economic, and political vulnerabilities. Low-income and marginalized communities have been most severely impacted by the disease itself, and by economic, social, and mental health consequences of confinement measures. Throughout human evolution and history, pandemics have brought about increased conflict, xenophobia, conspiracy theories, scapegoating, and drastic changes in social relations. In the age of smartphones, social media, ‘Zoomification’, and decreased face-to-face interactions, the COVID-19 pandemic has also spurred an unprecedented epidemic of isolation, uncertainty, fear, misinformation, and loss of trust in science, medicine, politics, and the public good. It is on all these ‘hidden’ levels (mental health, family and social relations, the construction of knowledge, meaning, hope, and trust) that the true toll of the pandemic will continue to be felt for generations to come.”
Samuel Veissière is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, the Co-director of the Culture, Mind, and Brain program and an Associate Member of the Department of Anthropology. An interdisciplinary anthropologist and cognitive scientist, he studies social dimensions of cognition, consciousness, and human well-being through a variety of projects including placebo effects and hypnosis, hyper-sociality in smartphone addiction, social polarization, gender and mental health, and the theoretical study of cultural evolution.
samuel.veissiere [at] mcgill.ca (English, French, Portuguese)
Robert Whitley, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry
“Good mental health is fostered by a surprising number of factors including physical activity, contact with nature and spirituality and/or religion. Such activities may be especially important in the COVID-19 era.”
Robert Whitley is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Principal Investigator of the Social Psychiatry Research and Interest Group (SPRING) at the Douglas Hospital Research Center. His three main research interests are recovery, stigma and men’s mental health and he leads projects funded by the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Movember Foundation.
robert.whitley [at] mcgill.ca (English, French)