Pandemic takes its toll on everyone even the healthcare workers
- NC Raine | March 04, 2022
It’s no secret the pandemic has impacted people’s mental health and created new barriers for those already suffering from mental illness and addictions.
The challenges exist everywhere and impact everyone in some way. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that Covid-19 has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93 per cent of countries worldwide. And in Canada, 50 per cent of Canadians reported worsening mental health since the pandemic began.
Janet Martell and Doris Woods are community counselling support workers for the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC) and are responsible for several Saskatchewan First Nations. They’re tasked with responding to and guiding some of the province’s most remote communities through emergency situations.
“A lot of what we deal with relates to Covid,” said Martell. “People are learning how to deal with (the pandemic), but they’re full of fatigue. Because of the restrictions, the lack of resources, people are more inclined to get into their addiction.” Martell manages five First Nations around Meadow Lake, while Woods covers four northern Dene communities.
“Most of these First Nations just don’t have the capacity to deal with a crisis,” said Martell. “They will phone MLTC and (Woods) or I will act on it.”
Once called, they coordinate an immediate response to any crisis situation with the first responders in the area and assist in any manner possible, from arranging doctor referrals to delivering emergency supplies.
In order to provide hope and reach as many people as possible in remote communities, the pair have been sharing supportive messages over the local radio station. Each month is a different message based on what they feel is needed in the community. Topics have included domestic violence, suicide prevention, grieving lost ones, financial stress, and small things people can do to find peace.
But, sometimes that’s not enough.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Martell’s received many calls from people who are experiencing anxiety and depression.
According to Statistics Canada, a third of mental health workers report fair to poor mental health since the pandemic began.
Woods said, community members and healthcare workers are experiencing mental and physical exhaustion caused by an endless battle with Covid.
“First Nations have really been traumatized over the years,” said Woods. “There’s a lot in there that can trigger people’s anxiety. And even the frontline workers, they need support too. They are often related in some way to the events of what happened in the community, so [they] need outside support.”
They care for the mental health of the community’s healthcare workers in two ways. They make certain they meet with counselors in person or virtually on a regular basis. Woods and Martell also have regular meetings with them to debrief.
“The healthcare workers need that reassurance that they’re doing okay,” said Martell. “So we try to do whatever we can do to give them that positive reinforcement.”
The work is exhausting, but there’s reason for optimism, because she’s seen how everyone in each community supports one another through the trying times.