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You might not be able to connect with loved ones in the way that you are used to right now, but there are still many ways to support others. Recognize that some people may struggle at times more than others, and that people will have different needs and desires for support from friends and family. Find out more about how to support your loved ones and others around you through anxieties and difficult times below.

If a loved one is in a crisis, please contact the local crisis line at 519-973-4435, 911, or go to
your local emergency department.

Every person will respond differently to the COVID-19 pandemic and will have a different method of
coping. Regardless of coping style, loved ones can offer support to family members and friends
experiencing anxiety or stress during the COVID-19 pandemic by doing the following:

  1. Invite the person to talk. Listen to the person non-judgmentally and empathize with their
    situation. This includes allowing the person to speak freely by listening and asking
    questions without telling the person what to do. Try to understand where the person is coming
    from and always maintain open lines of communication.
  2. Take an interest in the person’s well-being by asking how they prefer to be
    supported. This may involve simply listening to the person, helping them to problem solve,
    taking them for a walk, or referring them to a mental health professional.
  3. Remind the person that it is normal to feel stressed or anxious during this time and that there
    are supports available that have helped others. This message helps to counter any shame
    associated with mental distress, reluctance to talk about it, or reluctance to reach out for
    help.
  4. With the person’s permission, share credible facts with them about COVID-19 from reliable
    sources, such as this website or other governmental or health authorities.
  5. If the person is open to it, share resources with them about coping with stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 crisis. Continue
    to check in with the person on a regular basis to offer support and assistance.
  6. Be mindful of your abilities to help in certain situations and know when it is appropriate to
    refer to professional support. If the person is experiencing high levels of stress or their
    mental state is significantly hindering their ability to cope, encourage them to reach out for
    support from a mental health professional. Please see the “Where to Access Help
    & Resources”
     section of this website for more information about the
    community resources that are available during this time.

This is a difficult time for children and their loved ones. Children may not fully understood the
reasons for virtual learning options, the cancellation of extracurricular activities, and the need
for physical distancing requirements.

Children may also be experiencing anxiety or distress around the return to in-class learning. Here
are some
strategies
 to help you support your child’s mental health. 

Children’s Mental Health Ontario developed
a resource to help parents talk to their children about COVID-19. Some of their tips include:

  1. Become informed about COVID-19 yourself and limit news exposure. Correct any misinformation
    about COVID-19.
  2. Focus on the details that are most relevant and things that you and your child can control.
  3. Limit routine changes where possible.
  4. Share information in as concrete a way as possible. Don’t complicate the situation
    – keep it simple and clear.
  5. Take time to validate their concerns with your words and attention.
  6. Review good hygiene practices and, if appropriate, make fun games out of these habits.

For more great tips, please see CAMH’s
resource
 for Talking to Children about COVID-19 and Its Impact or the Ministry
of Health and Long-Term Care’s resource
 for Talking to Children about the
Pandemic.

Some other helpful resources include:

A child might be struggling with their mental health if they have changes in behaviour or emotions
(e.g., angry outbursts or depressed mood) that last most of the day or for a period of time (e.g.,
more than a week), or interfere with their thoughts, feelings, or daily functioning. In addition, a
child may be struggling with their mental health if they tell their parents that they feel sad or
anxious a lot or if they express thoughts of hurting themselves. If your child is in a crisis
situation, seek help from a mental health professional immediately. For mental health emergencies,
or if your child is at an immediate risk to harm themselves or others, call 911 or go to a local
emergency department. When visiting an emergency room, individuals will have to participate in an
active screening for COVID-19.

If your child is struggling with their mental health, reach out for support from a mental health
professional. For more information about the mental health programs, services, and
resources available for children during this time, please visit the “Where to Access Help &
Resources
” section of this website.

If you are well, connect with people who may find this time especially stressful, such as:

  • Older adults and those with chronic health conditions who are at increased risk of COVID-19.
  • People who have a history of depression, anxiety or substance use disorders.
  • People who may be heavily impacted by COVID-19 through job loss, health concerns, separation
    from loved ones, or other issues.
  • People who have mobility challenges or few social supports.

If you can, offer your support to these individuals by: 

  • Checking in on them regularly through phone, email, video chat, or other digital methods.
  • Offering to pick up additional grocery items or other necessities for them if you are heading to
    the store for food. Place their groceries at the doorstep or porch and contact them to let
    them know their groceries are outside.Being mindful of the supplies you keep at home, and ensure
    that you have a plan for how to get groceries and other supplies if you or someone else has to
    isolate for a period of time.

Social stigma in the context of physical and mental health occurs when there is a negative
association between a person or group of people who share certain characteristics and a specific
disease. Social stigma often results from fear and uncertainty about things that are not fully
understood, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Not all information presented in social media or in other
outlets is accurate or up-to-date. This can create misconceptions about the disease, where it
originated from, or how it spreads. These misconceptions can result in the labelling, stereotyping,
discrimination, or prejudicial treatment of certain groups of people, places, or things.

Social stigma is especially common in disease outbreaks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The current
situation has provoked social stigma and discriminatory behaviours towards people of certain ethnic
backgrounds and anyone perceived to have been in contact with the virus. This may appear through the
following ways:

  • Attaching COVID-19 to a specific nationality, ethnicity, or geographic location, even though not
    everyone in these populations is specifically at risk for the disease
  • Blaming a person or group of people who may have the virus for “being careless and
    spreading the illness”
  • Socially avoiding or rejecting persons released from COVID-19 quarantines, even though they are
    no longer considered a risk for spreading the disease to others
  • Avoiding local places associated with myths about the virus, such as take-out restaurants or
    grocers owned by people from specific nationalities or ethnicities
  • Socially avoiding or rejecting individuals that work in healthcare settings, first responder
    fields, or other essential workplaces due to fear about COVID-19.

Stigma has several harmful effects on everyone in the community by creating fear and anger towards other people.
Targeted groups are particularly at risk of experiencing these harmful effects, which can further impact the wider
community. These impacts include the following:

  • Stigmatized groups may feel guilty, shameful, or bad about themselves if they have the virus
  • Stigmatized groups may socially isolate themselves to avoid poor treatment or discrimination
  • People may be less likely to get tested or seek treatment if they fear they will face discrimination
  • People who have, or suspect that they have, COVID-19 may avoid quarantine requirements in order to hide the fact
    that they are ill, which has broader health risks for all members of the community
  • Stigma affects the overall emotional and mental health of individuals and may cause further uncertainty, fear,
    or anxiety about the disease for targeted groups and the general public. 

Everyone in the community can help to reduce the social stigma associated with COVID-19. Essential steps to reducing
social stigma and discrimination include the following:

  1. COVID-19 has affected people from many countries across the world. Do not attach COVID-19 to any ethnicity,
    nationality, or geographical location. It is important to be empathic towards those who have been affected by
    COVID-19 in any country, as those with the disease have done nothing wrong.
  2. Use inclusive language and terminology to describe and talk about individuals who may be affected by
    COVID-19. This includes using person-first language. For example, rather than referring to individuals with
    COVID-19 as “COVID-19 cases”, “victims”, or “the diseased”, refer to these
    individuals as “persons being treated for COVID-19” or “persons who are recovering from
    COVID-19”.
  3. Avoid reading or listening to social media posts about COVID-19, where it originated from, or how it
    spread – many of these posts are just stories and not facts.
  4. Speak out against stigmatizing behaviours or negative statements about certain groups of people regarding
    COVID-19. Correct misconceptions that people may believe or spread by sharing facts from credible and
    reliable sources. 
  5. Support people who may be experiencing stigma and discrimination related to COVID-19. Reassure them that
    they have done nothing wrong and connect them to community resources and supports if required. Please see
    the “Where to Get Help &
    Resources”
     section of this website for more information on community resources and supports.
  6. Find opportunities to amplify positive and hopeful stories about individuals who have been affected by
    COVID-19. This may include stories about people who have successfully recovered from the disease and are
    willing to share their experiences with others.
  7. Thank healthcare workers and first responders for their continued support during the COVID-19
    pandemic. Acknowledge the role they play in saving lives and keeping the community safe.

For more information about preventing and reducing stigma and discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic, please see
the following resources:

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Last modified: 
Thursday, December 17, 2020 - 9:13am