The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)

Winter blues a concern for Vancouver Islanders during COVID-19 Christmas season

Statistics show British Columbians anticipate worsening mental health

COVID-19 may exacerbate the mental health strain of the holidays, some health experts warn.

“These next couple of months are going to probably be the hardest,” said Richard Stanwick, chief medical officer at Island Health. “It’s going to be that slogging through and mentally trying to tough it out.”

On Nov. 24, another B.C. record was broken for the number of new COVID-19 cases, with 941 people diagnosed and 10 deaths. Of those new cases, 11 were on Vancouver Island. Last week Premier John Horgan announced he was calling for extensions to the non-essential travel restriction within the province.

As of Nov. 24, a total of 28,348 cases have been recorded in B.C. since the pandemic began.

It’s unclear if those restrictions will last into December, but two thirds of British Columbians predict their mental health will deteriorate in the coming months, according to a survey by the Pacific Blue Cross Health Foundation.

The data also reveals that calls to B.C.’s crisis lines have spiked 27 per cent since the pandemic began, with the number of people reporting poor mental health tripling compared to pre-pandemic times. The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year, with many callers saying they feel anxious and depressed.

READ ALSO: Premier urges B.C. religious leaders to keep celebrations virtual this holiday season

“Now we’re heading into more indoor time, more people who are affected by a lack of light. And then of course on top of that, a holiday season in which we’re probably not going to be able to celebrate in the way that we’re used to,” Stanwick said.

Along with social restrictions, many holiday events are cancelled in Greater Victoria, from Santa Claus parades and Christmas plays to holiday school choirs and winter markets.

But COVID-19 hasn’t put a cap on all seasonal joy. Habitat for Humanity’s Gingerbread Showcase is a go, and a new pandemic-safe, drive-thru light-up show is coming to the Breakwater District at Ogden Point.

“I think we can still look forward to something better,” Stanwick said. “One thing I’m always impressed by is the creativity of our community to find ways to still accomplish, you know, some good things without putting themselves at risk of COVID-19.”

If you are in crisis, reach out for help. The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of B.C. offers a crisis line at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). The Vancouver Island Crisis Line can be reached at 1-888-494-3888 or 250-754-4447.

READ ALSO: The magic of Christmas returns to the Butchart Gardens


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