CMHA Calgary shares key insights and mental health tips in midst of COVID-19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so too does the stress and anxiety. So we sat down virtually with Karen Gallagher-Burt, Director of Community Engagement at Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region (CMHA Calgary), in a recent webinar to discuss. Gallagher-Burt is a passionate mental health advocate and educator with lived experience, while CMHA Calgary works to support their vision for mentally healthy people in a healthy society as a valued partner of United Way of Calgary and Area.

Here’s what she had to say on how the pandemic is impacting our mental health, trends shaping the mental health landscape today, and tips to support ourselves and our communities.
Being proactive about our mental health pays off
In a recent poll, 50 per cent of Calgarians reported feeling depressed. Many of these people are our friends, family members, and neighbours who may be finding themselves struggling for the first time. It’s important to take proactive measures to maintain or improve our mental health because it can help prevent mental illness down the line. And there’s a return on investment—when we’re intentional about protecting our mental health, we’re happier and more fulfilled, and able to bring the best version of ourselves to our loved ones, workplaces, and communities.
Taking care of yourself, 10 minutes at a time
It’s not always easy to find time for ourselves, but just a few minutes can have a positive effect on our mental health. Set aside 10 minutes a day just for yourself, and make self-care an ongoing priority. Do something you enjoy, like reading, doing a puzzle, meditating, yoga—or do nothing at all. It could be that you just need 10 minutes of peace and quiet. To be clear, it’s not about taking on something extra, it’s about taking something off your to-do list. Practicing self-compassion may be especially important for “high performers” who put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed in every aspect of their lives, including work, volunteering, parenting, etc.
Taking care of others through the power of observation
There’s never been a better time to show kindness for others, and one way we can do that is by offering support. When we pay attention, we can pick up on the cues that indicate someone might need an extra hand or ear, like a change in behaviours, routines, or activities. If you’re worried about someone but not sure how to bring it up, try starting the conversation with open-ended questions or phrases. For example, “I notice you seem a little _____,” or “How are you coping today?” Then, listen actively and attentively. You don’t need to give any advice, but if you start to feel overwhelmed, it’s best to reach out to an organization like Distress Centre Calgary for help. Placing a call together and providing a “handoff” to further support may be the most compassionate thing you can do—for yourself and others.
We’re shifting towards exhaustion—and resiliency
In 2020, as the pandemic swept the world and overturned our communities, the predominant feelings were those of grief and loss. Now, in 2021, we’re grappling with the exhaustion that stems from a prolonged experience we have no control over; we’ve all been heavily impacted and we’re overwhelmed by the news. But there’s a positive: the pandemic is increasing our resiliency as people find new and different ways of coping.

Hear more insights from Gallagher-Burt in this clip.


Find support
If you or someone you know needs support to navigate this challenging time, please know that resources are available.

For immediate help with mental health, please call Distress Centre Calgary’s 24-hour crisis line at 403-266-HELP (4357). For non-urgent assistance, 211 is available 24/7 by phone, text, or online chat—simply dial 211, text “INFO” to 211, or visit 211 is a free, confidential service made possible by United Way of Calgary and Area. Contact CMHA Calgary for support by phone (403-297-1700), email ([email protected]) or online by visiting