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You are not alone. We will get through this together. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum
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Let’s look after one another, reach out to that friend you haven’t spoken to in a while and ask them how they are mentally coping with the pandemic

Content Warning: Mental health and suicide.

It is no revelation that this school year has been difficult for all due to COVID-19. With rampant unemployment, lockdowns, and online schooling, many of us have seen a total breakdown of our social lives.

For those living and working at home, away from the daily interactions of campus, it has been difficult and the pandemic has brought on deeply entrenched senses of stress, anxiety and loneliness.

But it is not only more stressful for those studying from home: international students living in Ottawa have also faced numerous challenges that have undoubtedly negatively impacted their mental health.

For those of us fortunate enough to be close to home, we have to imagine international students’ realities. Some are stranded 10,000 kilometres away from their home in the middle of a deadly pandemic worrying about their next meal at the same time as the well-being of their loved ones back home.

Even for those who have decided to live in Ottawa this year, living in an apartment alone or with roommates who have different social circles can lead to despair and loneliness.

Humans are social creatures; we are designed to interact with one another, love one another and care for each other. This is difficult to do virtually — high definition videos cannot replace in-person interactions. 

Isolation is not a natural human behaviour, and is harmful to human beings. Recent studies have shown that loneliness can significantly increase a person’s risk of premature death. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), loneliness has been associated with 50 per cent of dementia cases. 

This pandemic has shown what University of Ottawa students have known for a long time: there is a serious mental health crisis not only on this campus, but in this country as a whole. 

We have to take care of each other, but this doesn’t simply mean sending a Snapchat to a friend when you’re feeling lonely at 3 a.m., it means speaking with those closest to you on a regular basis and asking them tough questions on how they are holding up. We need to converse together, we need to air out our feelings and grievances amongst friends and significant others. 

Keeping everything bottled up inside will not help in the long run, and will only worsen the already amplified feelings of loneliness and isolation brought on by this pandemic. 

Now more than ever, it is time for those of us who lead in our community to make sure we check in not only on those who are closest to us, but those in need and those we suspect may not have large social nets and are suffering in silence. 

Thankfully, this semester there have been no known or recorded student deaths, and we need to make sure it stays that way. The 2019-2020 school year saw six students take their own lives, we do not want an encore. We might be in for a rocky winter, especially as seasonal depression takes its hold on us for the next few months.

If you need to talk to someone, don’t be afraid to reach out to your loved ones, your friends, or other people you may feel comfortable sharing your feelings with. We can guarantee that a number of your peers also feel this way, and nothing is more uplifting than a good conversation when you’re feeling down in a hole.

If you don’t have anybody, feel free to reach out to members of the Fulcrum’s staff. We are more than happy to have a conversation with fellow students and community members, and we will always try our best to point you in the right direction for help.

To quote Montreal rocker, Sam Roberts, “we’re all in this together.” 

You are not alone. We will get through this together. 

For those who may seek professional help, there are a number of resources in the community that are accessible at any time. Here is a non-comprehensive list of mental health resources.

On campus…

  • University of Ottawa Health Services (UOHS), 100 Marie-Curie Private
    • Offers counselling, psychiatric services, individual, couple or family therapy, access to psycho-educational groups and referrals to specialists off-campus
  • Student Academic Success Service (SASS), 100 Marie-Curie Private
    • Offers individual counselling, peer-counselling, workshops, online therapy and group counselling using new stepped model; referrals
  • Faculty mentoring centres (locations differ by faculty)
    • Specialized mentoring services catered to the needs of students in each faculty

Off campus…

Warning signs of suicide include:

Talking about wanting to die

Looking for a way to kill oneself

Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose

Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain

Talking about being a burden to others

Increasing use of alcohol or drugs

Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly

Sleeping too little or too much

Withdrawing or feeling isolated

Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

Displaying extreme mood swings

The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.

Editorials are written by the Fulcrum’s fourteen-person editorial board and express the shared opinion of Fulcrum’s editorial staff. To share your own views, email editor@thefulcrum.ca.