A program first offered to Winnipeggers intended to help deal with pandemic-related anxiety is launching across the province.
The Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba is concerned that as winter sets in and the number of COVID-19 cases rises, Manitobans will feel more restless, more hopeless, and more stressed — in short, more anxious.
The Anxiety and Worry Support Program is provided on the Zoom platform.
The association provided the experiences of two Winnipeggers who have participated in the program.
In the spring, as the pandemic arrived, Juliana Crippa said she needed to seek mental health help for the first time in her life. Crippa is one of hundreds of Manitobans who have turned to the association this year.
She found relief with the association’s program.
"It makes you feel like you’re not alone," Crippa said.
Winnipeg retiree Tami Norget saw her stress levels surge in the spring.
"The COVID program got everything back on track," Norget said.
"It helped me normalize COVID — as normalized as you can get with COVID — and help take the scariness out of it. By the end of it, I was feeling like normal, and it was so nice."
As the association noted in its news release, mental health experts are warning of an "echo pandemic" of mental health issues — which will only get worse if untreated. The number of Canadians ranking their anxiety as high has quadrupled during the pandemic, while access and quality of services declined dramatically, according to one study.
"The application process is simple," said the association’s executive director Mary Williams.
"People fill out the forms on our website and the outreach worker will contact them shortly afterwards."
Williams also noted that when the free six-week program is completed, weekly support group meetings continue to bolster new skills and support network.
"For the support group meetings, I love the Zoom meetings," Norget said.
"I don’t have to worry about masking up and going downtown … in the winter time, it’s nice to be able to just go to a meeting and not have to worry about the driving part."
There is a telephone option for those without computer access.
"Do it," Norget said.
"Don’t even think about it. They will understand you in a way that no one else can; they can help you feel like there’s hope at the end of this, that you will feel better, that you will feel stronger, that there’s a place to go (virtually) where you will be heard and understood and accepted for exactly who you are and get the support that you need."
Those interested can contact one of three outreach workers. In the Swan River area, email email@example.com or call 431-280-0116; in the Dauphin area, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-638-5368; and in the Westman region email email@example.com or call 204-725-8550.
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.