Mental health during COVID-19

As the changes we are all experiencing with COVID-19 have now stretched into weeks, stress and anxiety are becoming an increasing challenge for some. Coping with staying at home, managing work and family together in that setting, and the many other restrictions associated with physical distancing are the reality for many. For others on our CoM team, going to work in our hospitals and medical clinics comes with a different set of challenges and causes for stress and anxiety.

This week, the university announced its workforce strategy due to COVID-19 and our college has begun working with supervisors and administrative employees on next steps. This is a stressful time and I remind you that university-supported services including the Employee and Family Assistance Program are available to all employees.

In light of all this, mental health is top of mind right now for many. I want to share some thoughts and resources (see end of this blog) that I hope you find helpful. Of course, I encourage you to focus on the things most useful to you in staying well and welcome you sharing those here, if you would like. Monitoring your moods, thoughts and feelings is especially important, and help is available should you need it through university and college resources, and through our health system.

In many basic day-to-day ways, our mental health is supported by work teams and colleagues maintaining contact and supporting one another virtually. Making time during video meetings for some lighter conversation and humour is helping with social connections and friendships. It certainly helps to see one another, laugh together, and share anecdotes from our lives. As one example, our dean’s office team shares information, humour, pet pictures, grandchildren pictures (I may have posted a few!), and messages of encouragement and support in our MS Teams group every day. This has been a valuable means of keeping us together as a team, along with virtual monthly meetings.

Some teams are having quick daily remote huddles, and colleagues and friends are including online coffee breaks in their schedules to ensure opportunities for the social connections we all value in the workplace. We are reminding one another to get outside for breaks, fresh air and sunshine; the weather has finally co-operated these last few weeks! Making time for exercise and relaxation is a big help in staying upbeat, and mentally and physically well.

Beyond that, at the individual level, more than ever before, our rule of thumb needs to be when we think of someone we know, we call or better yet, video call, to say hi and see how that person is doing. We can all play a role in reaching out to anyone we notice seems down or not themselves. Some of our team members are more isolated than others, and we need to keep this in mind and reach out and include one another in virtual group activities, meetings and through direct connections.

I hope everyone is benefiting from and extending support to colleagues, family and friends. I also share a variety of college, university and other resources here:

As always, I welcome your feedback, including ways you are finding to stay well.


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