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Alberta

Holiday Mental Health – It’s Okay if it’s not the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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The stores are stocking up on red and green everything, the shelves are lined with ornaments and dancing reindeer and you can’t ignore it even if you want to – the holiday season is nearly here. 

For many, Christmas means celebrations, decorations, rum and eggnog and time with family. From sledding and snow days to hanging the lights and putting up the tree, there are lots of things to love about the holiday season.
However, for others, there are lots of reasons why it might not be the most wonderful time of the year, and that’s okay too. 

While the claim that suicide rates spike during the holiday season has been repeatedly misused and ultimately disproven as the “holiday suicide myth” (1), the holiday blues are a very real phenomenon. In the midst of the celebratory season, feelings of anxiety, isolation, depression and grief can be overwhelming, particularly when combined with additional stressors such as strained personal relationships and financial uncertainty. Not everyone is looking forward to Christmas, and in the midst of the 2020 global COVID-19 pandemic, which has left many people without employment and unable to travel, the emotional toll of this holiday season promises to be increasingly complex. 

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Alberta Division released a statement regarding coping with the holidays during these unusual and uncertain times. 

“The pandemic has disrupted many yearly holiday traditions and has increased collective anxieties and social isolation. As we look for alternative ways to spread joy and take part in new ways of celebrating the holidays, Albertans must focus on their mental health during an already busy and often overwhelming season.”

According to the CMHA, these are some simple but useful ways to maintain your mental health during the holidays. 

Focus on what you can control. Like the food you eat, the time you have a shower or the media you consume.  

Anxiety is normal. During times of crisis it is normal to feel increased anxiety. Acknowledge those feelings are valid. 

Limit your consumption of media. Allow yourself time to focus on activities you enjoy instead. Reading, listening to music or meditating are all great ways to de-stress when you are unable to attend regular holiday festivities. 

Remain connected to your body. Exercising regularly, getting outside, eating well and resting will support positive mental health. 

Be open with your support system. Identify supportive people you can connect with if you begin to feel overwhelmed or lonely. 

Reach out for help. If you or a loved one needs help, call 211 (Alberta only) or the Mental Health Help Line at 1-877-303-2642. 

As the holidays arrive amid the fog of the ongoing global pandemic, remember – it’s okay to feel confused, frightened, and uncertain of the future. You are not alone, and there are always resources available to help you and your loved ones through these complicated times. Be gentle with yourself and others, ask for help if you need it, and above all, be kind. 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

Bail hearing continues today for teen accused in Calgary officer’s hit-and-run death

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CALGARY — A bail hearing for a teen accused in the hit-and-run death of a Calgary police officer will continue today.

The hearing began Tuesday for the 18-year-old accused, who was 17 at the time of the offence on Dec. 31. 

He has been charged with first-degree murder and cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. 

Police have said Sgt. Andrew Harnett was hit and dragged while attempting to stop an SUV after noticing its plates didn’t match its registration. 

Harnett died later in hospital. 

Police allege the accused youth was driving the SUV and a 19-year-old man was a passenger in the vehicle. 

The 19-year-old has also been charged with first-degree murder. 

Prosecutor Doug Taylor told the court Tuesday that he plans seek an adult sentence for the youth if he’s convicted, which would be life in prison with no eligibility of parole for 10 years. 

He later told reporters why the Crown is opposed to the suspect’s release. 

“Simply put, the Crown’s position is that the young person ought to be detained for both the safety and the protection of the public and to maintain confidence in the administration of justice,” Taylor said. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021 

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Alberta long-term care residents remain priority in looming slowdown of COVID vaccine

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EDMONTON — Alberta’s chief medical officer of health says residents in long-term care and supportive living facilities will remain the priority as the province grapples with a looming slowdown in COVID-19 vaccine supply.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw says health officials may also have to rebook vaccination appointments for those getting the required second dose.

Hinshaw made the announcement just hours after the federal government said there will be no shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week and reduced shipments for about three weeks after that.

The slowdown is due to Pfizer retrofitting its Belgium-based plant in order to ramp up production down the road.

Hinshaw says Alberta has 456 new cases of COVID-19, with 740 patients in hospital.

There are 119 patients in intensive care and 1,463 people have died.

“This is frustrating, but the factory issues in Belgium are out of our control,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said in a release Tuesday.

“We will continue to use what we have to protect as many Albertans as possible. And we will continue to inform Albertans of any changes to our vaccination plans.”

Alberta recently finished giving first doses of vaccine to all residents in its 357 long-term care and supportive living facilities.

“These are absolutely the highest-risk locations, and people who live in these facilities are the most vulnerable to severe outcomes,” Hinshaw told a virtual news conference.

“Two-thirds of all our (COVID-19) deaths have been in long-term care and supportive living facilities.”

Alberta has given 90,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to those in the high priority cohort: those in the care homes and front-line health-care workers.

Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but will now get just over 171,000 this week and nothing the following week.  Both vaccines require two doses weeks apart for full effectiveness.

The delay has also forced the province to put off implementing the next phase of priority cases: Indigenous seniors over 65 and other seniors 75 and older.

Alberta remains under strict lockdown measures, which include a ban on indoor gatherings. Bars, restaurants and lounges can offer takeout or pickup service only. Retailers are limited to 15 per cent customer capacity, while entertainment venues like casinos and movie theatres remain shuttered.

The province relaxed some measure slightly on Monday. Outdoor gatherings can have 10 people maximum. Personal care services, like hair salons, manicure and pedicure salons and tattoo shops, can open by appointment only.

Hinshaw said it’s not clear when further restrictions can be lifted.

“Our health system is still under severe strain,” she said.

“This continues to impact our ability to deliver care, not only for COVID-19 but all the other health needs Albertans have.”

There were 11,096 active COVID cases Tuesday, about half the number recorded at its peak in mid-December.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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