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Healthy Living: The pandemic and mental health

Knowing the pandemic pushed us toward an age of efficiency, lifesaving telehealth could be a part of easing the anxiety of the current day. ~ Robert Skender
From the vantage point of a home in Powell River's Wildwood neighbourhood, the sun sets over Vancouver Island.

Today the sun will start to set at 6:51 pm, in one week that exact same sun will disappear into twilight at 8:04 pm. The change in the length and warmth of days affects everything in a positive way. There are beams of light entering the deep cave of a dark winter full of pandemic protocols and enforced isolation.

A level of depression or anxiety is a proportional, natural reaction to the first pandemic of almost everyone’s lifetime. We have experienced some form of sudden, unsettling change: job security uncertainties; physical and mental health anxieties; survival threats in a fundamental way. Together, it’s time to acknowledge and process this time of unfamiliar grief and anxiety.

The words “mandated quarantine “and midday scenes of empty urban streets scenes are supposed to be things of dystopian science fiction films, not part of small talk in the grocery store lineup, standing six feet apart, through a medical-grade face mask. Our mental health is taking a hit. More importantly for the future, our children’s mental health is hurting with so much unknown and change.

In a mental wellness sense, we must sit and lick our psychological wounds, help each other and prepare to take the next step toward a collectively calmer spring and summer. As vaccination centres are stocked and organized and some shock subsides, there will be some silver linings or incidental positive effects of the pandemic.

Our environment wants, needs, and is demanding this slowdown of the wheels of industry. Overpopulation and critical pollution levels are not discouraging our self-sabotaging behaviours. Cages of lifeless canaries warning us about a soon to be unlivable planet are being ignored. Economies stubbornly continue on.

The pandemic may be forcing deep changes in business and health industries. The technology around Zoom calling or any video conferencing was well in place but underused. Pre-pandemic, a meeting in Montreal while based out of Vancouver meant driving to the airport in a gas-powered vehicle and then being stuffed into a larger flying vehicle for a more than 7,000 kilometre round trip; that’s a business ritual with deep cultural roots, but outdated and wasteful of our most precious resource: time.

Now, with normalization of Zoom meetings, in some sense, there is no physical distance to bridge between Montreal and Vancouver, or New York and Singapore. People will be left with more of that most precious resource. Instead of shuffling in and out of stuffy airports and idling on stagnant freeways, we can be hiking in the forest or beachcombing along the beautiful ocean.

Even more directly helpful in mental health is the practice of virtual physician consulting. Rural health care availability would be dramatically increased if this telecommunication technology were cleanly dovetailed into everyday life.

Knowing the pandemic pushed us toward an age of efficiency, lifesaving telehealth could be a part of easing the anxiety of the current day.

There is an interconnectedness between our work, social and family life and our mental health. The pandemic has taken a lot away from us, however, it may have given us a new appreciation of the invaluable time we have with each other. There may be some solace and sunshine in that thought.

Robert Skender is a Powell River freelance writer and health commentator.