Canadians’ mental health continues to be affected by the impact of the coronavirus, including concerns about a second wave, ongoing economic uncertainties and the added concerns of students returning to school, according to Morneau Shepell Ltd.’s latest mental-health index.

For the fifth consecutive month, it showed a negative mental-health score, at negative 11, a slight decline on July’s score of negative 10. The index, which also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measured the risk of anxiety (negative 12.9), depression (negative 12.7), optimism (negative 12.7), isolation (negative 12.1) and work productivity (negative 11.1). All sub-scores were worse compared to the improvements seen the previous month, excluding work productivity, which remained unchanged.

Read: Canadians’ mental health remains low even as country reopens from coronavirus lockdown

“The financial and economic impact of the pandemic can’t be ignored; however, there also needs to be more attention to the ongoing toll the pandemic is having on the mental well-being of Canadians,” said Stephen Liptrap, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, in a press release. “This decline is cause for concern. Canadians’ initial feelings of optimism as we started to reopen does not erase the impact of the pandemic. To avoid further declines, public health officials and all levels of government must take the necessary steps to provide support where it’s needed most and continue to put the mental health of Canadians first.”

As children across Canada return to the classroom this month, the mental-health index found the scores of individuals with one (negative 15.2) or two (negative 13) children are significantly lower than those with none (negative 9.9). Surprisingly, individuals with three or more children seem to have adapted well to the pandemic, with a score of negative 8.6

For employees working in the education sector, their mental health has declined to negative 11.6 compared to a score of negative 11.1 in July.

“September will be a particularly difficult month for Canadians, as they face another major change in routine and new challenges,” said Paula Allen, Morneau Shepell’s senior vice-president of research, analytics and innovation, in the release. “As we navigate several uncertainties over the coming weeks, it’s critical that all Canadians continue to be accountable for their health, maintain open communication and actively invest in their own mental well-being.”

Read: 56% of Canadians say coronavirus negatively impacting mental health: survey

Considering changes in Canadians’ personal lives or routines, the index found 34 per cent of respondents said they’re undecided or felt they had adapted poorly to these changes, while 30 per cent believed they’ve adapted badly to both changes in work and finances.

And, despite the majority of respondents saying they’re now saving more and feeling more in control over their finances, the most commonly reported concern remained the pandemic’s ongoing impact on finances and the economy, cited by 49 per cent of respondents.

“While the economy continues to be top of mind for all Canadians, those who indicate high levels of uncertainty (negative 26.8) and those who most believe we will not return to a pre-pandemic state (negative 19.6), have the lowest scores,” said Allen. “It is important to understand that, even as some people are adapting, others are not. The importance of collective responsibility goes well beyond wearing a mask in public. We each need to look for changes in our friends and family and offer support for those needing professional help.”

Read: Financial wellness more important than ever during coronavirus

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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