On January 27th, the Globe and Mail reported that there has been a huge increase in calls to physicians and police for psychological problems related to Covid-19. In an Ontario Medical Association (OMA) conference, psychiatrist Renata Villela voiced a concern that the levels of despair being suffered by many Ontarians is “truly astronomical” and doctors predicted that mental health problems associated with Covid-19 will continue for years in the future. In a Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC) survey taken in December 2020, Canadians reported the highest rates ever for a diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorder, and there is evidence that the incidence of psychological problems is increasing as the pandemic drags on.
A CDC report similarly revealed that an increasing number of adults have experienced more serious mental health conditions as a result of Covid-19. Younger adults, essential workers, racial minorities and caregivers are the groups most effected by mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, but Covid-19 has detrimentally altered the health of Canadians in all walks of life. One clear measure of the current situation is that crisis hotlines and support systems in Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo and other Ontario communities have experienced a huge increase in calls for help.
Emergency health care workers, such as nurses and doctors, are understandably among the groups most affected by Covid-19 stress. Long hours, and the trauma and grief of lost lives, has significantly affected the mental health of those on the front lines. A recent survey by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) reported that the burnout rate for emergency doctors is believed to be 86 per cent (Global News, Jan 12, 2001). The family of a Granby Quebec emergency physician revealed that pandemic-related stress was the reason for Dr. Dion’s tragic suicide in January. Dr. Karine Dion was only 35-years-old and the mother of a young son when she lost her life.
Fear of contracting the virus and loneliness due to increased isolation are other key contributors to our pandemic-related stress, anxiety and depression. Stress and the emotional effects of Covid-19 are known to cause a whole host of psychological and physical problems and reduced mental health outcomes. Persons suffering from mental health conditions are, for example, far more likely to partake in substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. In addition, because many Canadians are experiencing work insecurity and/or income loss due to Covid-19, increased financial stress is another major contributor to reduced mental health for effected individuals.
The following are some of the symptoms that may result from Covid-related stress.
- Difficulties in concentration and decision-making
- Being overwhelmed by feelings of fear, sadness, worry, frustration or numbness
- Reduced energy levels and/or lack of interest in previously-enjoyed activities
- Physical problems, such as headaches, stomach and digestion problems, hives, and body pain
- Appetite changes
- Decline in mental health
- Aggravation of a pre-existing health condition
- Increased alcohol or substance use.
Covid-19 has caused a mental health crisis or chronic psychological problem for many Canadians who were not previously suffering from a mental health condition or whose mental health condition was largely under control prior to the pandemic. For individuals who were already struggling with anxiety or depression prior to the outbreak, Covid-19 has seriously aggravated the symptoms of many.
Global News (Jan 16, 2021) reported that a previously unheard-of number of health care workers, such as emergency nurses and long-term care staff, have left their jobs due to stress and/or burnout. The pandemic has negatively impacted the mental health and ability to work for Canadians in many other professions as well, including all manner of front-line workers and factory/warehouse staff who must work in high-risk environments. However, Covid’s effects are not limited to persons in these more vulnerable occupations and for some individuals, anxiety or depression may derive from worries about elderly or at-risk loved ones, or other circumstances related to the pandemic.
If you are unable to work due to stress, anxiety, PTSD, depression or burnout, you may be eligible for short or long-term disability benefits. In order to meet the eligibility requirements, you require a diagnosis and treatment from a medical doctor and your doctor must give the opinion that your symptoms prevent you from performing the essential tasks of your employment.
For more information on your right to disability benefits, or if your disability benefits were denied, talk to a Kitchener-Waterloo disability lawyer at Dietrich Law. We welcome your questions and are committed to ensure that your legal rights are upheld.