Women and people with children suffering worse mental health amid pandemic: study

MONTREAL — With all the changes and uncertainties surrounding the return to school amid COVID-19, many parents report feeling overwhelmed.

Renee Gan is a freelance writer and mother of three children who recently took on the role of full-time teacher, preparing lessons for her kids in Grade 2 and 5. She says it’s been hard to find a balance between her work and personal life and often tackles work once her kids are in bed.

“The thing is, it feels like you’re never off. You’re always on. You’re always doing something,” Gan told CTV News.

New research from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto suggests the pandemic is adversely affecting the mental health of women and people with children.

Researchers surveyed 1,003 adults and found that women had higher levels of anxiety and loneliness than men, and parents with children under 18 had higher levels of depression compared to adults without children.

“There is concern that added stressors related to children returning to school may be reflected in the finding,” said Dr. Hayley Hamilton, senior scientist at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH in a statement. “More research is needed and more supports are required for these populations.”

According to the study, one in five Canadians reported seeking professional help for mental health concerns as a way of coping with the pandemic.

The study also noted that particular stressors included worries about the return to school and overall fears about the virus. One in four respondents reported a fear of catching COVID-19 compared to 20.3 per cent in a previous survey conducted over the summer.

Genevieve Beaulieu-Pelletier is a psychologist in Montreal. She expects to see more cases of depression and anxiety, especially in communities where restrictive rules are in place.

Warning about the damaging consequences social isolation and loneliness can have on a person, she said, “We have to take the time to find alternatives, to be in contact with others. So it might be online, it might be writing, any ways that we [can] keep a balance.”

According to a recent report from Morneau Shepell on the mental health of Canadian workers, loneliness is worse for many people than the fear of dying from COVID-19.

A survey by Nanos Research found that two in five Canadians reported worse mental health conditions than before the pandemic. ​The survey also found that Canadians reported a 20 per cent increase in alcohol consumption.

For Renee Gan, she’s doing her best to try and maintain a balance in her life, as she and so many other families try to take things one day at a time.

“Sometimes when the kids are just not in the mood to do anything, we’ll scrap the schoolwork and then pull out a board game.”

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