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COVID-19 sees increase in mental health issues in Sun Peaks

Family doctors often fielding calls

Photo Timothy Brock

One can’t begin to count the number of ways that COVID-19 has changed people’s lives. From where and how people work, to how we interact with one another, it’s largely different. 

Like elsewhere, these sudden changes have produced an onslaught of mental health issues in Sun Peaks, said Dr. Shane Barclay of the Sun Peaks Community Health Centre.

Isolation, financial strain and uncertainty has led to increased stress for many people, he explained. These disparate factors “compounded,” creating significant mental stressors for some people. 

Barlcay added that some in the community are still living with the lingering effects of the virus. This is a significant source of stress for some people, said Barclay. 

“I think there are a number of patients with post-COVID syndrome, as they call it, which includes fatigue and shortness of breath,” said Barclay. “That’s quite scary for a patient, as we don’t know what’s going to happen with those patients. 

“We’re hoping that [the issues] will just resolve, but that can create a fair bit of anxiety.” 

Our community is, of course, not isolated in terms of its issues with mental health.

In July, a UBC department of psychology study found the mental health toll of the pandemic is being felt most by younger and middle-aged adults, who face family- and work-related challenges such as unemployment and homeschool. 

“Younger people were more likely to report decreased mental health, increased difficulty in accessing counselling, not working, difficulty in meeting your financial needs, and likely to have to move because of affordability,” said Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, when speaking about the study.

When it comes to mental health treatment, Barclay said the options are limited. 

Those with acute mental health issues are directed to mental health professionals at Royal Inland Hospital, while less acute cases referred to privately-run counsellors. 

Family physicians also end up taking on some of this work, said Barclay, noting that it can be a time-consuming process. 

He said that the health centre has been trying to secure funding to pay for some patients to see local counselor Karen Lara.

Lara, who works out of the health centre, said that she has also seen an increase in stress-related mental health issues related to COVID.  

For some, the pandemic may have set something off that has been lingering for a long time. 

“Just because of the increased pressure of working from home, or having financial impacts, or even just the way people are navigating, physically-distanced, with masks.” 

Lara added the stress of our new normal, where we spend less time at informal gatherings, is also a factor in uptick in mental health issues. 

“I think people may be more relationship-based than they thought they were in the past,” she said. “We didn’t really realize how meaningful it is to have this social connection.” 

Lara added that she offers counselling on a sliding scale, to get in touch with her email [email protected]

The province of B.C. has also created a handy resource guide for mental health issues for people looking for help. 

This includes a link to BounceBack, which provides free access to online, video and phone-based coaching designed to help people manage low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry.

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