Dawne Adkins, of the Outreach Centre of Red Deer, encourages people to reach out if they are having a difficult time coping during the pandemic. (Contributed photo).

Dawne Adkins, of the Outreach Centre of Red Deer, encourages people to reach out if they are having a difficult time coping during the pandemic. (Contributed photo).

Pandemic-related isolation is taking an emotional toll on many Red Deerians, says expert

The novelty of virus-prevention measures are wearing off, says Dawne Adkins

To say “we are all in this together” is small comfort to people who are weathering the pandemic alone, says a local mental health worker.

“I know that loneliness is huge right now,” said Dawne Adkins, a grief recovery specialist with the Outreach Centre in Red Deer.

“Definitely, there are people out there who are not OK, and I encourage them to reach out if they are having a hard time with this…”

Adkins believes older, solitary people who are living without access to apps such as Skype or Zoom, or seniors’ activities at the temporarily closed Golden Circle, are feeling particularly isolated.

But so are extroverted youths who are learning from home and can’t hang out with their friends, she added.

“The novelty of this is wearing off for a lot of people. They say, ‘OK, I’ve done my part,’ and now they’re frustrated that there’s no end-date in sight” for all the virus-prevention measures that have shut down businesses and forced them to stay home.

Adkins is especially concerned about worsening family dynamics as more people experience financial stress from job loss, while being forced to hunker down in close quarters with their spouses and children.

While creativity is burgeoning within some families who are staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and others are using free time to declutter or learn a new language, not everybody can summon up enough optimism, energy or motivation.

Adkins believes many people are feeling bored, overwhelmed or cut off — “and that’s OK,” since everybody is dealing with the new normal in the best way they can.

“Feelings are never wrong.”

Adkins encourages people of any age or gender who are having a hard time coping with emotions such as loneliness or stress, to call the Outreach Centre (also known as Central Alberta Women’s Outreach) at 403-347-2480 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Staff and volunteers are happy to lend an ear if anybody needs to talk, she added.

They can also refer callers to various community agencies to help relieve some of their stress.

“We are keeping abreast of who’s open right now … for example, we just referred someone to the Red Deer Food Bank,” she added.

For the Red Deer-area residents who need more intensive emotional help, the centre offers free individual counselling sessions by phone or online.

Adkins also encourages them to call the toll-free, 24/7 Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642.

Children and youths can call the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 (so can concerned parents or guardians). They can also text ‘CONNECT.’

Adkins wants people to know that the outreach centre is offering online group educational seminars.

Anyone interested in working on specific issues, such as self-esteem, or expanding their knowledge about domestic violence, can also call and be emailed a link to self-directed online programs.

Red Deer-area residents who want a face-to-face support group can get their names added to a list for when these start up again.

Meanwhile, Adkins said outreach staff will be checking on these people by phone periodically to ensure they are OK.

She urges all Red Deerians to connect more with their neighbours — especially those who live alone — by calling them up, or even dropping off a note to let them know they are not forgotten.


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