By Janica Maya (@janicamaya)
As we wrap up 2020, let us have a quick recap of the year that changed everything.
Early in 2020, as the world witnessed an unexpected global turn triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic - many countries suffered from financial loss and high death rates. Consequently, this rapid and unprecedented change also negatively affected our mental health.
Many cities such as such Toronto enforced a lockdown to keep people at home and closed many businesses to stop the spread of the virus. The city was not its usual self as the streets were quiet and eerie and people’s faces covered - only revealing the fear in their eyes.
This difficult year has certainly been dominated by downfalls, but there is a takeaway for all of us.
With social distancing in place, many of us miss the interaction and cherished moments with our friends and families. We realized more than ever that human connection is indeed, important for our health and well-being. As we live through the pandemic, sharing our struggles and success, can cultivate connections that are more meaningful and preserve these valuable relationships.
In addition, let us not overlook our mental health. According to CAMH, many people are seeing a rise in stress levels because of the fear of uncertainty of their health, families and the risk of losing their job. The increase of mental health issues puts a strain on mental health systems where demand for care outweighs the supply for many years. The pandemic only further reveals the ongoing struggles of our mental health system. It is high time we tackle the issue in greater forms by prioritizing mental health through policy and in communities.
With the pandemic regulating social distancing, it did not stop mass protests across the world including support for calls on curbing anti-Black racism. Rather, it intensified the awareness of racial issues as many people used this time to learn and unlearn. The death of George Floyd sparked a global outcry and calls for justice for the lives lost from police brutality and systemic racism.
Frank Leon Roberts, an activist who teaches a course on the Black Lives Matter Movement at New York University said: “You have a situation where the entire country is on lockdown, and more people are inside watching T. V…. more people are being forced to pay attention.”
The pandemic further highlighted existing social problems and struggles in our city. For instance, homelessness is an ongoing issue in Toronto for years – mainly due to the lack of resources and services.
Although, Toronto arranged for more housing options - not enough adequate shelters are in place to solve the intense population of homelessness in the city.
In the midst of the pandemic, it is essential to have a different outlook on the social and economic systems that currently shape our society and negatively affect many livelihoods during these times.
As Ruth Sutherland - CEO, Samaritans, said: “We urgently need to change the status quo and reshape society’s priorities to put the well-being at the heart of everything we do.”