The Canadian Mental Health Association says getting back to a healthy lifestyle and asking for help will help ease anxiety and depression.

Over the past year, Manitoba's have been struggling with their mental health due to uncertain futures and changing regulations. CMHA's Manitoba Program Director of Mental Health Promotion says confusion and fear are common.

"I think it is one step at a time. I think sometimes we think we have to have it all together and have it perfect and there is no such thing as that.  As we go about thinking about what we need I think part of it is having a conversation with ourselves to say 'what are we really writhing in right now? Stephen Sutherland says.

There is currently a significant spike in suicidality, anxiety, depression, and alcohol misuse in Manitoba.


Anxiety and depression

In the past year, anxiety and depression rates have increased by at least 40 per cent in Manitoba. Sutherland says they have also seen an exponential increase in alcohol misuse.

"I think there is quite a spectrum of folks who are really languishing, they are really feeling 'blah.' We talked about the COVID fatigue and I think for many Manitobans we are past that fatigue and it just is another restriction, its another hurdle, its another barrier."

Worry, stress, and sadness are increasingly common. 

Sutherland says finances are a big concern for many as they worry about being able to pay rent, buying PPE, and keeping their jobs. They also are seeing people who do not have a reliable phone or internet are concerned about not being able to connect with others.

Another issue he is seeing is what Sutherland is calling an 'infodemic' online.

"Who gets to speak into your life?" he says. "We are listening and we are watching and we are glued to these updates. Part of it is reducing some of that and then being able to know who am I going to listen to as I plan to take care of my mental health and wellbeing."

Adults and children alike are experiencing mental health strains. Sutherland recommends parents watch for signs in children such as greater irritability and withdrawal, checking with them regularly about how they are feeling.



Suicide rates in the province remain steady. Manitoba's Chief Medical Examiner Mark O'Rourke says pending data shows there were 205 studies in the past year, but that will not be finalized until later in the summer. Men, by far, have the most suicides, amounting to 143 deaths in the pending 2020 data.

2020's deaths are on par with the five-year average of 212. The year before there were 232 suicides and 236 in 2018.

At the same time, Sutherland says suicidality is up significantly. The silver lining, he says, is more people than ever before are seeking help.

"I think what may have been the gamechanger is people who are experiencing the suicidality are getting that intervention."

He says this is likely thanks to CMHA and community partners making it easier to find much-needed help.


Mental health supports

Self-love and love for others will play an important role in mental wellbeing. 

"We have to love big during these times. We have to really dig deep and I know that Manitobans are incredibly resilient and we can build our resiliency by engaging in some incredible community mental health supports and services."

He says taking care of physical health is important for mental health.

"It is so important to get the rest. It is so important to get enough sleep. It is so important to have nutritious meals, to have them at least three times a day. It is so important to reduce that screen time, to get out, to exercise, and to just walk or whatever that looks like."

Manitobans are getting outside more than the average Canadian, a positive move for mental health in the province.

He says having a gratitude journal full of silver linings will be also be helpful. 

Sutherland is cautioning against waiting to ask for help for anything, saying there is the capacity for whatever people need. He says people will not overburden systems. 

"It is ok to ask for help."

He says by putting it off, the tension build and it could become a crisis. By asking for help, Manitobans can feel better, sooner, and reaching out to loved ones is important to help yourself and others.

"I think the key is we want people to stay connected. We often think because we are having to physically distance ourselves that means we cut ourselves off socially and that is just not the case. I think some people are waiting for people to connect with them."



If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or thinking of suicide Klinic Crisis Line's toll-free phone number is 1-888-322-3019, or you can call 911 for emergencies. The Canadian Mental Health Association of Manitoba has resources available on their website and are available by phone at 204-982-6100. Kid's Help Phone can be reached at 1-800-668-6868.