Opening A Conversation: Mental, Emotional and Physical Health Awareness and Support on Island

This winter has revealed a pattern of individuals in our community that are experiencing increasingly alarming levels of damage to their mental, emotional, and physical health. More than anyone can ever recall. I'd like to step forward and suggest that we all keep an extra vigilant eye on our friends and neighbours, particularly those that either live alone or have decided to isolate themselves for long periods of time as well as families and groups that are starting to think that keeping to themselves is the best course. This may be due to the desire to avoid conflict, concerns about personal health or possibly the effects of being continually told that they will be safer if they do not interact with others. I'll fully admit to having my own challenges with examining how this has affected me as well as my own family, close friends and acquaintances.

Every winter there are similar issues here and in other remote areas of the world. What makes the last 2 years different from many dark and dreary winters in the past is that it is hard to decide when it is 'safe' to come out again. It is also a reflection of the constant barrage of information that has been flowing through the media, word of mouth and personal experiences. This barrage suggests that this will all 'end' soon once we all come together, meet again in large groups without any suggested barriers, health objectives are achieved and the new laws that have sprung forth from the situation are changed. It promises to take a lot more than that.

 

Keeping in mind that each person has completely different perceptions of what they are comfortable with can go a long way to moving forward without further conflict. Most of the misunderstandings, arguments and divisions that are responsible for this pattern of illnesses come from varying narratives that each of us have decided are the correct ones. There has been so much discussion and debate about what the 'right' way to move forward is that it has muddied the waters of what can actually work. From as neutral a point of view as possible I've engaged in numerous conversations with almost everyone on the island and found that the majority of these health issues are being created by continual suggestions that we don't know what has actually happened, what is next or how to handle it. Perhaps we are all much more aware than we realize. Although we may differ in how these things that have happened as well as what they mean we can surely agree that it is time to move forward together with a new attitude and leave it all behind.

 

We all have the opportunity to return to having the same healthy relationships as before. Hopefully better ones. Of course, there will always be a few folks that are not friends. If they didn't get along before this, then it will come as no surprise if they aren't going to now.

 

Having said that, Lasqueti has a unique opportunity to come out of all of this even stronger, with an enormous opportunity to face the future in a positive light.

 

Outside conflict caused by the world in general is not new. The island being forced to get involved is. For ages it has been a place where very little changes despite the rest of the planet hurtling quickly towards levels of development that threaten Earth itself. Living in the unique and spectacularly beautiful paradise here is a chance to have a much different future than almost anywhere else.

 

From my viewpoint we have reached an era where it is becoming irrelevant what has happened in the past. If we all dwelled on how strange and uncomfortable many of these stages have been we could remain in little cliques throughout the island forever and never find common ground again.

 

It can evolve differently if we try. Everyone here has remained closer overall than almost anywhere else I can think of. Those of you who are reading this that are experiencing barriers with any of these health issues please talk to someone about it. If you think you don't have anyone to talk to about it, contact me and I would gladly listen. Avoidance is not a strategy that fosters healing. Trusting that those around you actually care and want to listen to you is. Believe in the power of your own thoughts and focus on leaving the darkness behind. If we can change the ones that keep whispering there is no end in sight to picturing opportunities for solutions instead, we can surely find a way forward to be together in harmony again.

 

Respectfully, with the hope of further conversations and solutions to come, Camino

This brief explores mental health and substance use during, and prior to, the COVID-19 pandemic. It focuses on populations that were particularly at risk for experiencing negative mental health.  www.kff.org