As our response to the COVID-19 pandemic enters seven months, Jason Shaw, our Emergency Operations Centre Manager, has an important message to residents.
“We don’t know how long we are going to be in this so we need to make sure we are taking care of ourselves and others,” he said. “This also means paying attention to our mental health.”
Uncertainty, lack of control, and other feelings associated with COVID-19 can have a significant impact on mental health. Shaw said he refers to this time as the new normal and tries to remember that we are in a constant state of flux.
“This has caused a lot of wear and tear on everyone because we are human,” said Shaw.
With COVID-19 being the longest emergency activation in the history of the City’s Office of Emergency Management, he makes a point of checking in on his co-workers to see how they are doing and encourages others to do the same. He has experienced first-hand the impact a quick phone call, text message, or email can make.
“I get a lot of phone calls to make sure I am ok, and I have made a lot of phone calls to others,” he said.
“I myself have struggled with the stresses of this response and I’m thankful people take the time to reach out to me.”
Shaw mentioned emergencies can have compounding effects on stress and mental health. Earlier this year, he participated in a virtual panel discussion on mental health with others in the emergency management field from across the country.
“Everyone is pulling the rope to save lives and when you know what is at stake, it can build up,” he said. “Recognizing that and realizing that you can do something about it is so important.”
Whether it is walking your dog, physical activity, or playing board games, Shaw urges people to find what grounds them. For him, it was discovering a greater appreciation for family.
“COVID-19 provided an opportunity for me to become closer with family members and I think the realization that I didn’t need to do some of the things I did before was ok as long as I had my immediate family.”
Shaw encouraged all emergency responders to reach out to their Employee and Family Assistance Program for additional support.
The Province of Manitoba has made available AbilitiCBT, a digital cognitive behavioral therapy program available to all residents of Manitoba age 16 or older experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of anxiety due to the pandemic.
If you or someone you know is struggling or is in crisis, you are not alone. The Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line is available 24 hours a day and can be reached at 1‑877‑435‑7170.
Celebrating City employees COVID-19 Emergency and safety