Kim Dixon, BA, MSc, CPS (F) FAMILIES Peer Specialist (&Co.) Area Manager
The ECHO Pandemic
What is the ECHO Pandemic?
Recently, research company Morneau Sheppell gathered evidence from organizations across the country showing the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the mental well-being of Canadians to deteriorate. These ongoing pressures are also exponentially affecting those who were already challenged with mental illness and/or addiction prior to the pandemic. This trend is being called the ECHO Pandemic.
COVID-19 affects on Mental Illness
Last Christmas, people with a mental illness were twice as likely to have a substance use problem compared to the general population, according to the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health. And at least 20 percent of people with a mental illness had a co-occurring substance use problem. That number was as high as 50 percent for people with schizophrenia.
By Easter, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found the majority of our population reported their alcohol and cannabis consumption had stayed the same during COVID. However, this seemed in direct contrast with national statistics showing sales of alcohol had increased by as much as 153 percent, along with increased purchases of edibles. CCSUA research also revealed individuals with a history of mental illness or substance use problems are at an elevated risk of developing alcohol or cannabis use disorder in the face of stressful experiences such as the pandemic.
As COVID-19 escalated by Easter 2020, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found sales of alcohol had increased by as much as 153 percent, along with increased purchases of marijuana edibles.
COVID impacts youths
An April CCSUA study found in general, Canadians 18 to 34 have been more likely than those over 55 to increase their consumption of both alcohol and cannabis during COVID. This tendency means we must be vigilant monitoring the health of our young people, especially if they have a mental illness. For instance, the onset of schizophrenia is typically between the ages of 15 to 25, putting this category of youths at increased risk of substance use disorder throughout the pandemic.
ECHO Pandemic & FAMILIES
This information tells us the need for safe access to mental illness and/or addiction support has become more important than ever in the wake of COVID-19.
BCSS FAMILIES and SMART facilitators Heather, Gail and Michelle, offer in-person and virtual help, such as with our SMART Family & Friends (F&F) program. Self-Management & Recovery Training is a science-based program in response to the growing number of family members affected by concurrent disorders (mental illness, substance use and/or addiction).
SMART Recovery (F&F)
SMART recognizes that being in a close relationship with someone struggling with mental illness, substance use and/or addiction disorders can be a frustrating, painful and sometimes lonely journey. It can be easy to lose your bearings. F&F invites families to focus on themselves and their goals, an area they may have been neglecting for some time.
Before Thanksgiving, consider SMART Family & Friends mutual educational support to help each family member develop more effective coping strategies and find a greater sense of fulfilment in their own lives. F&F provides support and tools to families and explores new ways of interacting with their Loved One.
In the New Year, be SMART with well-established techniques from modern psychology that equip family members with practical skills and tools to successfully adapt to concurrent disorders, including life-saving strategies to help your Loved One seek recovery.