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Pandemic mental health crisis calls up, suicides down – Powell River Peak

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As COVID-19 hit and B.C. went into lock down, something happened that B.C.’s crisis line executive director Stacy Ashton hadn’t anticipated.

The provincial government offered her money to help British Columbians deal with pandemic mental health stresses.

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And, the Crisis Intervention & Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. needed a cash infusion as staff had to hire people to work the lines as volunteers went into isolation.

“What we’ve been seeing in terms of COVID impact is our call volume is up 25%,” Ashton said.

While the proportion of the reasons for calls remained stable, Ashton said people were reaching out due to the impacts of world or political events.

Those impacts and the uncertainty were making people anxious and depressed, she said.

Indeed, as Canadians have become more isolated, many have voiced concerns about their mental health, an October report from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute said.

However, while the suicide rate is lower than previous years, new research shows Canadians aren’t reaching out for Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) pandemic health services as much as they might.

And, explained UBC School of Nursing’s Emily Jenkins, some groups have been showing greater pandemic impacts than others, among them people with pre-existing medical conditions, parents of children under 18 and members of the LGBTQ community.

“Not everybody is impacted equally in terms of the mental health impact or suicidal ideation,” Jenkins said.

What has helped, she said, is political response from both Ottawa and Victoria to protect people’s wellbeing. The issue, though, is whether people accept that help.

Canadians not reaching out

However, Canadians aren’t making as much use as they might from the help governments are offering, said new research from UBC and the CMHA released Nov. 10.

While 65% of 3,000 survey participants reported adverse mental health impacts related to COVID-19 in May, only 2% reported accessing online mental health resources such as apps, websites, digital tools or other supports not involving direct contact with a mental health care provider.

“These programs are ideally positioned for the types of difficult experiences and emotions that we’re seeing during the pandemic,” Jenkins said. “They are well suited for people who are having trouble coping and need some support to manage their mental health.”

Only 10% reporting self-harming or coping “not well at all” due to pandemic stress said they had used available tools.

And, among those experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings, 8% said they had used the supports, while 7% of respondents who reported “significantly worse” mental health during the pandemic said they had.

Jenkins said suicidal thinking and self harm is likely also influenced by isolation, limited social supports, changes in access to mental health care and services and being overwhelmed from multiple and competing demands.

“Feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness and hopelessness were highly prevalent, which we also know can be linked to suicidality,” Jenkins said.

Indeed, Public Health Agency of Canada surveys found people dealing with such conditions during COVID were four times more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, 2.5 times more likely to feel depressed, three times more likely to have trouble coping and four times more likely to have deliberately harmed themselves.

And, the crisis centre’s call-volume increase is hardly surprising.

Mental health worsened in pandemic

According to Statistics Canada, “the general Canadian population also reported that their mental health worsened after the start of physical distancing.”

But, while Canadians have reported greater mental health concerns during the pandemic, that has not translated into worst-case scenarios in B.C., where the suicide rate has declined compared with 2019.

BC Coroners Service statistics show that overall, the number of B.C., suicide deaths between January and August has appeared to decrease by 7% compared with 2019.

Moreover, compared with last year, each health authority has seen an apparent decline in suicide deaths, with the exception of Island Health, which saw a 3% increase. The health authority with the largest decline is Northern Health at 33%, followed by Fraser Health at 11%. Vancouver Coastal saw a 1% drop while Interior Health saw a 4% decline.

That’s not to say, though, that British Columbians are not feeling pandemic-related stresses.

Crisis centre surveys indicate British Columbians are experiencing mental health concerns. And, it’s Metro Vancouver showing the biggest increase in these concerns, the centre found. Some 28% more Vancouverite respondents said their mental health is fair to poor now, compared with before the pandemic.

And, the crisis centre reported in June, call rates had increased. Earlier, the centre said, “People are facing unforeseen financial and social stresses due to sudden job loss, fear of illness and the pressures of self-isolation, amongst other factors.”

Ashton said what the federal and provincial governments have done in providing assistance to Canadians is in line with what other socially minded nations have done.

She cited a new study from Iran’s Larestan University of Medical Sciences, which indicated suicide rates are lower in those countries offering residents greater social assistance networks, labour market supports and suicide prevention programs.

“The existence of social support and also supporting the labour market in different countries can reduce the harmful psychological effects of economic recession,” the study said.

How to find help with COVID stress

So what can people access to help cope as the pandemic continues?

Victoria announced in April $5 million to expand existing mental health programs and services and launch new services to support British Columbians.

The province has also worked with Foundry Youth Centres, the Canadian Mental Health Association – BC Division, the B.C. Psychological Association and others to deliver expanded mental health services.

Among other online mental health resources available free to Canadians are:

• CMHA’s BounceBack, currently available in B.C., Manitoba and Ontario and expanding to the rest of the country soon through a gift from Bell Let’s Talk;
• Wellness Together Canada, a federally funded program; and
• WellCan, a resource developed and funded by corporate, community and public sector partners.

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo

 

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What you need to know about COVID-19 in B.C. for Dec. 4 – CBC.ca

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THE LATEST:

  • Daily update on numbers expected in a written statement around 3 p.m. PT.
  • Health officials announced 694 new cases Thursday, as well as 12 more deaths.
  • There are now 9,103 active cases of COVID-19 across B.C.
  • 325 patients are in hospital, with 80 in intensive care.
  • 481 people have died of the disease since the pandemic began
  • New restrictions mean indoor and outdoor adult team sports are banned, kids’ sports limited.

Though B.C.’s active caseload continues to grow and the death toll keeps rising sharply, there is light at the end of the tunnel with news that COVID-19 vaccine rollout is expected to begin in the first week of January.

On Thursday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the first shipments of vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna should begin arriving within weeks, and priority patients including residents of long-term care are expected to get the first shots early in 2021.

By spring, there should be enough doses in the province for the vaccine to become more widely available, and Henry said the goal is to reach everyone who wants a vaccine by September.

But that is still months away, and in the meantime, Henry said it’s more important than ever that people buckle down and get serious about following public health orders and advice.

On Thursday, she announced 694 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 more deaths. There are 325 patients in hospital with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a slight dip from Wednesday. Eighty are in intensive care.

Meanwhile, health officials have announced a ban on all indoor and outdoor adult sports as well as new limitations on children’s sports. They’ve also updated the restrictions for group fitness activities.

All the details can be found here.

Henry said Thursday that between 10 and 15 per cent of COVID-19 cases in recent weeks have been linked to sports and recreational activities.

Public health orders remain in place banning all public and community events and limiting social interactions to people within your immediate household. Those orders will be reviewed on Monday.

READ MORE:

What’s happening elsewhere in Canada

As of Thursday night, there have been 396,270 cases of COVID-19 in Canada. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 12,407.

In Quebec, the premier has officially told the public that all Christmas gatherings need to be cancelled this year.

Federal officials released their own details Thursday about the plans for a vaccine, cautioning that the initial supply will be limited — just three million Canadians are expected to get a shot in the first three months of 2021.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Loss of taste or smell.
  • Headache.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they’re mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or o​​​​​​ther extreme symptoms should call 911.

What can I do to protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean.
  • Keep your distance from people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
  • Be aware of evolving travel advisories to different regions.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government’s website.

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Nurse texts dad, asking for ventilators, and a prototype is together in six days – Estevan Mercury

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A few days after the global pandemic was declared, Jim Boire got a text from his daughter. Rebecca Erker, a Royal University Hospital intensive care unit nurse.

She is working on her PhD with the respiratory research centre in Saskatoon. As a result, she had a good understanding of what was at stake with COVID-19, and reason to be concerned.

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Thankfully, Boire is president of RMD Engineering, a Saskatoon firm whose expertise ranges from beamlines for the Canada Light Source Synchrotron to industrial processes in potash mining, and a whole lot in between.

They’ve worked in uranium, agriculture, and a lot of research and development. His company (which Boire owns with four other partners, all employees) had the expertise and capacity to do something about it. And so they did.

“I got my text from my daughter on March 18. March 24, we had our first prototype built,” Boire said. Now the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) announced Wednesday it would be taking delivery of 100 new ventilators, known as the EUV-SK1, in short order. The first 20 are ready to go out the door, and the company has most of the parts in place to build as many as 1,000 units.”

RMD Engineering Inc.’s subsidiary, One Health Medical Technologies, recently received COVID-19 Medical Device Authorization from Health Canada for an in-house designed, developed and manufactured ventilator. Collaborating with the University of Saskatchewan and SHA subject matter experts, RMD Engineering was able to successfully prototype an emergency use ventilator for Health Canada certification.

According to a Ministry of Health press release, there are currently approximately 650 ventilators available in Saskatchewan’s health system, enough to meet the need. They range from high-end critical care type ventilators to more basic sub-acute ventilators. The SHA’s purchase from RMD will increase that number to about 750.

But getting from a text to a prototype for an approved ventilator wasn’t easy, nor was it a quick process.

Very early on, the deans of both the University of Saskatchewan College of Engineering and College of Medicine got involved. Top respiratory technologies, respirologists, and ICU nurses were brought in within short order to develop this totally new product.

Boire said, “As soon as we asked for them to help, they helped with open arms. And you have a team like that, that knows exactly what something is supposed to do. And the capability to build something that can do that, then all you need are the codes and standards and validation equipment to make sure it meets the required level of quality.”

Asked if it was like converting to war production in 1940, Boire said, “I’ll tell you, that’s exactly the way it started.

“It felt like a military operation, if I was ever involved in a military operation, but I wasn’t. However, as soon as we got through the point where this is going to work, this design is going to work, here’s what we have to do now, a group of people said, ‘You know what? We get it. This is like a military operation, everybody’s doing this, let’s just go, go, go.’

“They stopped and said, ‘You know what, it’s probably time now that everybody starts looking at this as the biggest humanitarian effort this company has ever done.’ And it was just an awesome way to get out of that firefighting mode. And then one of our instrumentation leads said, ‘This is not a sprint. You guys can’t keep working 18 hours a day. This is going to be a marathon.’

“And it really helped pull the whole team back down to the ground, and get them out of that adrenaline mode, and really start focusing on the work breakdown, structure in the tasks at hand, and who’s responsible for what and what’s this timing going look like and when is this going in.”

His references to firefighting are authentic, as the company has built support equipment for water bombers.

They soon realized that the whole world was looking for critical parts, which almost immediately went into short supply and were being hoarded. Some items, like wire, saw huge price spikes. So RMD quickly realized it had to work on this project quietly, and develop a product that avoided critical path component shortages.

Boire said, “Instead of using the newer, more conventional turbine method, we knew those would be a hot commodity, when the world proclaimed they needed over a million of these. As you can imagine, that turbine is a complicated piece of equipment. We went the other way. We went back to being simple,” Boire said. “We have very, very few moving parts in our machine. There’s four moving parts.”

He explained, “This is an emergency use ventilator, so it needs to be used in the hospital or in an emergency hospital situation where they have line medical air and line oxygen so that’ll be running at 50 PSI. And then we control everything with proportional solenoids.”

There are two tubes coming into the device, which is in a large Pelican case, and two tubes coming out. They had them on hand because of another government project they’re working on. The lid includes an IBM screen.

“They’re all high reliability components,” he said. It runs off 110 volt AC power.

You set it up beside the bed, hook up the lines, hook up the power and put in the appropriate prescription.

They had previously made the biomedical imaging line for the Canadian Light Source, but they weren’t a medical device manufacturer. The list of specifications, protocols and standards was extensive.

And those standards, in some ways, simplify things. Boire said, “We don’t have any proprietary stuff on there, so all of the circuits, all the nebulizers everything fits on there. All that is covered off in standards. And I think that’s one of the biggest things to understand is when you go down this path, it is very prescriptive on everything. The machine has to do all of the standards it has to meet, including operational standards.”

He added, “It’s probably a foot tall, the stack of standards, when you put them together. You have to meet the electrical requirements, the operational requirements, the safety requirements. You don’t get to just build something in your backyard, and then tell everybody you have it. When you go and look at the requirements, when you submit to Health Canada, it is an armful. And I think we’ve spent just about $30,000 on standards. There is a lot of standards that you have to meet.”

 

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Government funds suicide-prevention programs for Indigenous youth, post-secondary students – Times Colonist

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The B.C. government will spend $2.3 million to expand mental-health supports and suicide-prevention programs for First Nations and Métis youth and post-secondary students who are at risk of mental-health decline amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding comes as new data released by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the University of British Columbia show that British Columbians are struggling with stress, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness during the second wave of the pandemic.

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Indigenous youth, who are disproportionately affected by suicide, will receive more help through the First Nations Health Authority, which will be given $800,000 to expanded suicide-prevention and life-promotion activities in First Nations communities across the province.

The funding will also allow the health authority’s youth advisory committees to expand to more regions. Another $200,000 will support Métis Nation B.C., which will develop Métis-specific online mental health support courses, as well as anti-stigma and awareness campaigns.

Dr. Nel Wieman, acting deputy chief medical officer for the First Nations Health Authority, said in a statement that First Nations youth suicide has been a longstanding concern and more funding for suicide-prevention programs is critical to build on the work the health authority is doing.

“It is often said our youth are our future, but they are also our present and their mental health needs are urgent,” he said.

The remaining $1.3 million will support the B.C. branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which will expand suicide-prevention programs.

The CMHA will also distribute grants to post-secondary institutions that will engage students at risk and offer new treatment, supports and referral programs. The expanded programs will include training for students, teachers and other members of the school community, to increase awareness of the supports available for students struggling with their mental health.

“Expanding the reach of suicide-prevention programs for students and Indigenous youth gets more young people access to the tools, skills and community supports they need to cope in challenging times,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson said in a statement.

The CMHA on Monday released the results of a nationwide survey showing 42 per cent of British Columbians reported that their mental health has deteriorated since the beginning of the pandemic.

The report found that 69 per cent of British Columbians were worried about the second wave of the virus, 55 per cent were worried about a loved one or family member dying or contracting the virus themselves, and 51 per cent were worried about being separated from family and friends. About 13 per cent of B.C. residents said they have increased the use of substances such as alcohol or cannabis as a coping mechanism.

The survey, carried out from Sept. 14 to 21, heard from 3,027 Canadians, including 445 British Columbians.

Anyone who is struggling with their mental health or experiencing experiencing suicidal thoughts can contact the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.

Post-secondary students can access Here2Talk, a free province-wide mental health and counselling referral service that is available 24-7 via online chat and telephone.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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