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NAOSH Week and the Importance of Mental Health

We’re commemorating North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH) which takes place from May 3-9. The annual event raises awareness on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace, at home, and in the community.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world with uncertainty, many of us have not only been struggling with external factors but our internal well being as well. That is why our focus for this week will be on mental health and ways to overcome stressors. This theme also aligns with the CMHA’s Mental Health Week which coincides with NAOSH.

According to statistics from the Government of Canada, without a pandemic, 1 in 5 Canadians experience a psychological health problem or illness in any given year. Furthermore, psychological health problems and illnesses are the number one cause of disability in Canada. The effects the pandemic has had on workers, families and communities are even more grim. Morneau Sheppel, a human resources and technology company, found that Canadians are feeling “unprecedented levels of anxiety” and that the pandemic “has caused a dramatic 16% drop in [their] mental health.”

The stats are stark, but they are important to acknowledge – especially now. It is also important to understand that the stress we all experience – pandemic or not – is normal, and we should feel comfortable to discuss our mental health, be it with our employer, co-workers, friends or family. Support does exist and there are several coping mechanisms – particularly during the pandemic – that can be helpful in maintaining mental wellness.  

Morneau Sheppel and the Canadian Mental Health Association both offer valuable resources and tips, which include:
- Accepting that some fear and anxiety is normal
- Seeking credible information and finding a balance in news and social media consumption
- Decreasing the other stressors in your life
- Practising self-care and kindness
- Seeking support

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has even launched free online crisis training for front line workers to help navigate the uncertainties brought on by COVID-19.

Perhaps the greatest methods to combating stress and anxiety are communication and connection. Although COVID-19 has put a stop to us being with one another, it has given us an opportunity to appreciate small moments, not take things for granted and connect on a more meaningful level. It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between physically distancing ourselves to help reduce the community spread of COVID19 and maintaining our social connections with those who we love and miss. The technology, social media platforms and software available to us is endless – so take the initiative to stay connected.

Some ideas:
- Host video chats, virtual lunches and coffee dates, dance parties
- Use Facetime, Zoom or the countless other video conferencing apps; or better yet, pick up the phone
- Write a letter
- Reach out to those you haven’t spoken to in a while (extended family, old colleagues, school mates)
- Talk about things that make you happy

Although the pandemic has brought a high level of uncertainty into our lives and disrupted our mental state, remember: this too shall pass. The importance of NAOSH Week and CMHA’s Mental Health Week is to raise awareness for mental health, but support exists every day – and we all need it at some point. Rely on your loved ones, utilize the resources available to you, and reach out whenever you need it.

You are not alone. We’re in this together. Now and always.

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