January 18, 2022 Message to the Membership

Posted on January 18, 2022 in

January 18, 2022 Message to the Membership

As we head towards an even more acute awareness of mental health, with the Bell Let’s Talk campaign about to permeate our consciousness (and hopefully subconsciousness), I find it ironic that those that are favouring a shutdown as a means to deal with the omicron variant are seemingly unaware of the other cause of concern brought on by COVID, which is of course, mental health.  

Mental health is at situation critical, and yet it’s still COVID that reigns the day. Last year Saskatchewan had more overdose deaths than it ever has (464), compared to just 179 in 2019. Suicides are not reported publicly, so we are left to wonder and speculate how many persons chose to end their own life. I would bet that those numbers combined – overdoses and suicides – would challenge the 961 reported deaths in Saskatchewan as a result of COVID in 2021. 

To state the obvious, nor is mental illness assuredly fatal. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people in our Province live with the crippling and sometimes downright paralyzing conditions brought on by anxiety, depression and countless of other types of mental health illnesses. Again, I wonder how that number would compare to the number of cases of COVID (that we are bombarded with daily thanks to the media). 

According to a study conducted by Saskatchewan Population Health and Evaluation Health Research Unit (SPERHU), since the onset of COVID-19, one in five Saskatchewan respondents experienced high anxiety, while the number was one in six for those respondents experiencing high depression. Furthermore, using modelling known as the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, nearly half (48%) of those experiencing anxiety or depression would be deemed ‘likely to have a severe mental health disorder.’  

Clearly, COVID has taken its toll on mental health. Therefore, at the risk of being among the minority in saying this (but I don’t necessarily think so) but I think Saskatchewan is doing the right thing when it comes to how the Province is dealing with COVID.  

As an outlier to the rest of the country, Premier Moe is being criticized heavily by many in the health care, education and public service sectors. But let’s face it, many in those camps want only two things: for the Province to shut down, and for a party other than the one headed by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe to be in power. 

Granted, there are those that are Sask Party supporters who are also sympathetic for more shutdowns or even for more clarity on what is and isn’t allowed these days. But they are nowhere near as vocal or vitriol about their concerns as most other critics. 

Again, I may be in the minority, because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it seems the rest of the world has moved on while Canada seems so very reluctant to change its attitude towards restrictions and public health orders. I’m a sports fan, so I can’t help but notice the stadiums and arenas hosting NFL and NHL games are packed. And Canada’s are anything but. In fact, some provinces currently disallow you to go to your favourite burger joint.  

Have you spoken to anyone who’s travelled internationally lately? It seems the hardest part about travelling is coming home. And the question becomes, why? 

By no means am I saying throw caution to the wind and let ‘er buck regardless of the consequences. What I am saying, however, is that the noise caused by those wanting shutdowns might, maybe, perhaps, possibly, could be inordinately loud, given the circumstances.  

Saskatchewan has measures in place, such as indoor masking, proof of vaccination and so on. We have had success in bringing down the number of hospitalizations and ICU patients, although admittedly hospitalizations are again on the rise. But they are nowhere near the numbers that they were when we were dealing with the Delta variant, particularly in the ICU. I find this to be mind-boggling when you consider the exponentially higher amount of omicron cases that we’re now dealing with.  

And what is incredibly important to note, is that we still have our restaurants open. Our stores are open. Our personal care services, such as hairstylists, massage therapists and beauticians are all open. We don’t have, and never have had, a curfew. Point being, we are so much better off than other places around the country.  

And I would argue, despite the astounding numbers noted earlier, our mental health is much better for it, compared to how it could be, or perhaps even to other places. And as an aside, screaming at each other doesn’t do much for positive mental health either. So let’s take that down a notch or a thousand. 

Until next time, be safe, be smart, be considerate, be well, but most of all, be kind. 

 Keith Moen, 

Executive Director 



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