Guest article: COVID-19 and Mental Health

This article is provided by a member of the West Coast Swing Ottawa community, Jessie Breault, MA. She is a Mental Health Counsellor. She has included information about crisis services available to all of us.

This pandemic is new territory for every single one of us, and the abundance of different messages about how we should act, how we should feel, what we should be doing with our time, and what is and isn’t okay can be overwhelming.

What you feel is what you feel

While this pandemic impacts us all, it does so in many diverse ways.

  • You may feel restless and uncomfortable, like you want to crawl out of your skin.
  • You may feel a cloud of worry that is always hovering in the back of your mind.
  • If you had to cancel a wedding, a baby shower, a special trip, you might feel angry.
  • You might feel guilty for feeling angry.
  • You might feel sad, unmotivated, find that concentrating on even a book is impossible.
  • You might feel relieved to be working from home or to have more time to yourself.
  • You might feel worried for your safety, always on high alert.
  • You might feel all of these things at different points (or even worse, feel them all at the same time).
  • You may also find yourself lying awake at night, or waking up with vivid dreams.

Whatever you’re feeling, you are not alone.

What you can do

We’re living through a time of huge uncertainty – it’s okay to give yourself extra space right now.

One small but important thing we can do for ourselves is to validate our own feelings. We can try to muster some compassion for ourselves and remember that we are living through a global crisis. There are new rules, new routines, and many major losses. It’s time to summon a little bit of extra compassion and empathy for ourselves right now.

  • We can ask ourselves, what is one thing we can do in a given moment to feel a little bit safer or more grounded.
  • We can pick one goal for each day and focus on accomplishing just that one thing.
  • Any exercise you do is going to be better than no exercise.
  • Any way that you can incorporate some routine into your day is helpful, even if it’s just eating around the same times each day, or going to bed at the same time each night.

Mental health support

If you are concerned about your mental health as a result of the pandemic, or if the instructions to stay at home are putting you in an unhealthy or dangerous situation, please consider reaching out for support.

I have included contact information for some crisis services below. In addition:

  • If you are currently employed, you can look in your health-benefits information and see if you have access to an employment assistance program (EAP), which can provide free professional counselling.
  • Many therapists in private practice are taking new clients via video conference.
  • Your family doctor or local walk-in clinic should also be well equipped to discuss your concerns with you and suggest next steps.
  • Also, please feel free to reach out to me ( if you have questions about how to get connected with counselling support.

Crisis Services

Domestic violence or risk of violence at home:

Ottawa crisis line (613-722-6914):

Canada wide crisis line (1-833-456-4566):

This website allows you to search for counsellors and psychologists in your area using multiple search criteria: