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Ontarians feel anxious and crave real connection, but say they’re doing “fine”

For Mental Health Week, the Canadian Mental Health Association Cochrane Timiskaming Branch promotes social connection to protect mental health in these difficult times

Timmins (ON) May 4, 2020 – Most Ontarians rely on shortcuts to describe their emotional state—even during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to new data released today by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in partnership with Maru/Matchbox, 77 per cent of those asked “how are you?” rely on “I’m fine, thanks” to express how they’re doing, despite the fact that Ontarians are feeling more negative emotions than positive ones these days (66% negative vs. 34% positive). The data were released to mark Canada’s 69th annual Mental Health Week, which runs May 4-10, 2020.

Despite a pandemic-driven growth in video-conferencing and social media usage, Canadians are feeling more isolated than ever (up 8 points from 39% to 47% in less than one month) and crave real, meaningful connections. In fact, over two thirds of Ontarians (70%) report they would like to experience more meaningful social interactions in their daily life.

“Most Canadians want more social connection, yet they’re reluctant to have the kind of honest, open conversations that build the connection they crave,” says Margaret Eaton, national CEO of CMHA. “In our society, it’s a cultural norm to ask people how they’re doing, but not to expect, nor provide, a truthful answer. This Mental Health Week, it’s time to get real about how we feel. It’s clear we need each other more than ever.”

Prior to the global pandemic, loneliness was already a major public health concern. People with weak or few social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and suicide.[i] And a lack of strong relationships has the same negative impact on life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[ii]

Due to physical distancing measures, people are isolated in their homes, missing out on family events and in-person activities and it appears they’re feeling it. Almost half of Ontarians are feeling anxious (49%), and only eight per cent are feeling happy. As we face social distancing measures, it’s important to note that people don’t need to be close to feel close.

“Connecting with others is so important for our mental health. So much of our well-being depends on our ability to stay connected with family and friends.” says Executive Director Paul Jalbert, Canadian Mental Health Association Cochrane-Timiskaming Branch (CMHA-CT).

Strong social networks lead to better self-esteem, coping mechanisms and a sense of well-being, and reduce depression and distress by providing emotional support, companionship and opportunities for meaningful social engagement.[iii]

The CMHA-CT will celebrate Mental Health Week virtually this year to respect physical distancing measure.  The Hollinger Headframe will be illuminated in green during Mental Health Week to symbolize the City of Timmins’ commitment to its citizens’ mental health. The CMHA will honor a local business, organization or person for their contribution to the mental health of the community. Finally, the CMHA will be releasing both an English and French podcast with a diverse panel of experts discussing how to mentally healthy in a time of COVID-19.   ​

The focus of this year’s Mental Health Week is to promote social connection and the role it plays in good mental health. To get involved, you can:

Mental Health Week was introduced by CMHA in 1951 and has since become a Canadian tradition. To learn more, please visit

 About the Data

CMHA partnered with Maru/Matchbox to conduct an online survey among a total of 1,507 Canadian adults on April 15, 2020. A probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, nineteen times out of twenty. The sample was weighted to reflect the Canadian adult population according to the most recent Census data. Additional data was taken from Maru’s ongoing, near-daily FEEL, BEHAVE, THINK COVID-19 tracking study. For more information, please go to

 About the Canadian Mental Health Association Cochrane-Timiskaming Branch

The Canadian Mental Health Association Cochrane-Timiskaming Branch is part of Canada’s longest standing mental health organizations. CMHA-CT is a non-profit charitable organization offering community mental health services to individuals living with mental illness to support them in living fulfilling lives. CMHA-CT also creates awareness and understanding of mental illness in our communities through advocacy, education and campaigns. For more information, visit



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