CALGARY -- Life in Alberta during the pandemic has turned into a real tension convention.

That was the word from a national organization Wednesday, when Morneau Shepell released its latest findings of its Mental Health Index, revealing that the greatest increase in stress month-over-month was for respondents living in Alberta, followed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The Mental Health Index is published monthly beginning in April 2020 and compares against benchmark data collected in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Paula Allen,  the global leader of research and total wellbeing at Morneau Shepell, said she wasn’t surprised that Alberta topped the list. She said that’s likely because mental health issues for Albertans started long before the pandemic - way back in 2014 with the collapse of oil prices.

“The risk of all Canadians has been elevated,” said Allen. “Those who are high risk are higher risk and we’ve actually had a doubling of the proportion of Canadians that are high risk.”

Mental Health

Decline in psychological health

The index showed a 11.1 drop from the pre-pandemic benchmark of 75, in large part due to a significant decline in psychological health, which reached its lowest point since the inception of the index in April 2020.

“People who might not be in a crisis situation, they still need to pay attention to their psychological health,” said Allen. “They need what we all we need psychologically every day. They need balance but they also need a strategy around how to deal with things when they get overwhelming so it doesn’t last too long.”

The index also tracks sub-scores against the benchmark, measuring financial risk (2.9), psychological health (-3.2), isolation (-11.1), work productivity (-11.1), depression (-12.5), anxiety (-12.5) and optimism (-12.9).

When compared to the previous month all sub-scores improved except for psychological health, which has declined 0.7 points month-over-month and reached its lowest point since the inception of the Index in April.

Online survey

The monthly report was conducted through an online survey in English and French from October 25 to November 5, 2020 with 3,000 respondents in Canada.

Operators at Distress Centre Calgary continue to see an increase in calls to it’s 24/7 crisis line since the pandemic hit North America and Calgary.

Distress Centre director of fund development and communictions Diane Jones Konihowski said anxiety calls have quadrupled in Calgary since the pandemic, with operators seeing a major increase in people contemplating suicide.

“Our top three issues have been anxiety, depression and the isolation and the loneliness piece continues to rear its ugly head,” said Jones Konihowki. “This will continue as the restrictions continue to get just a little bit tighter.”

Experts say its important to seek help to deal with mental health issues.

“When you start to feel that you’re tense more than you’re not tense, when you start to feel that your personality is changing in a way that you don’t like, you’re more anxious or more angry then you are calm,” said Allen. “You absolutely need to reach out for professional help - it’s not really a matter of friends and family at that point.”

Learn more about the Distress Centre here: