The pandemic has seen a rise in mental health disorders. It has also shaken people’s sense of resilience. Ahead of World Mental Health Day, a University of Guelph psychology professor provides insight into why and how to rebuild.  

Dr. Michèle Preyde is a scientist in the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences. She studies the psychosocial impacts of youth mental health disorders on caregivers and the impacts of in-patient treatment and out-of-home community mental health programs, providing useful clinical research for practitioners and their patients. 

Dr. Michèle Preyde
Dr. Michèle Preyde

Diagnoses of depressive and anxiety disorders rose by more than 25 per cent since the pandemic began in late 2019, according to the World Health Organization. Disruptions to routines challenged many people’s ability to adapt and remain resilient amid uncertainty, says Preyde.  

For some, that ability comes easily; for others, it doesn’t. 

“For some people with mental illness, the pandemic had adverse impacts, though for others, those with social anxiety for example, the move to online classes and work may have had short-term, positive impacts,” she explains.  

Despite investments to mental health supports in Canada in response to more diagnoses, the shortage of services that existed pre-pandemic continues, Preyde says.  

“Even before the pandemic, there were many people with mental health disorders who were not accessing the specialized mental health care they needed, despite mental health disorders being the leading cause of disability in Canada and worldwide.   

“For someone with a mental health disorder, a diagnosis can be a relief. It can provide enhanced understanding and be a starting point for treatment.” 

Healthy management strategies 

Preyde found many youth reported difficulty in developing and maintaining strategies to manage their mental health such as healthy lifestyles with routines and predictability, and a close, healthy connection with at least one other person.  

“Tailored interventions including appropriate amounts of sleep and exercise, eating healthily and practising self-care are important to health and well-being,” she says. “Adherence to routines and healthy behaviours becomes even more important during times of stress, such as a pandemic, than during times of calm.” 

Community support, healthy social connections and appropriate use of electronic devices and social media can also help people maintain those habits and enhance well-being, she adds. 

Preyde is available for interviews. 

Dr. Michèle Preyde