Calm in a COVID storm

Sadly, today’s social distancing requirements will not feel so strange to many Edmontonians.

We know that social isolation is epidemic in modern cities. Not just for seniors, either. Not just for the unemployed or people with disabilities.

Many of us go to work, commute home by ourselves and spend the evening alone with our thoughts and distractions.

Isolation is common, even in the most privileged of homes. To blame are some major cultural forces, from the ascension of social media to the decline of extended family connections and hometown loyalty.

When I was still with The Edmonton Journal, I wrote regularly about the silent epidemics of mental health and social isolation. So when I was elected in 2013, I approached the Mayor about a new City Council initiative on the issue.

He agreed and it was launched, under the title of Urban Isolation and Mental Health. Edmonton became an early adopter of strategies on social isolation.

But here we are today, being asked and in fact ordered to socially isolate for the health of the community — to behave in ways contrary to what is required to form connected and healthy communites. 

Anyone struggling with mental illness faces a particularly challenging time. And counselling can be difficult to access at the best of times. But there are some incredible organizations working right now to fill the gap. 

Here is a list of organizations that will continue providing free or affordable counselling during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Cornerstone Counselling has moved to phone or virtual sessions for their clients. Call 780-482-6215 to learn more. They use a sliding scale model to offer affordable counselling but they are also offering free 20-minute phone sessions. The next is on April 8th from 1-4:00 p.m..
  • Momentum Walk In Counselling is offering free online and telephone appointments at 780-757-0900
  • The Family Centre is offering free online and telephone counselling at 780-900-6423
  • City of Edmonton social workers are available by phone at 780-496-4777
  • 211 is always available
  • The Mental Health Foundation, Alberta Health Services and other foundation partners launched a free supportive texting service called Text4Hope:
    • Text COVID19HOPE to 393939 and you’ll receive daily texts that encourage you to focus on healthy thinking or suggest actions to help you manage your mood

If you know of any other free services please let me know and I will add them to this list.

By Scott McKeen, City Councillor Ward 6