Editor’s Letter: Prioritizing mental health during the pandemic

By Maureen McEwan

If you’re reading this, you’ve found a familiar friend at your door, mailbox or nearest newsstand. 

We are back in print and couldn’t be more thrilled about it. Did you miss us? We certainly missed you. 

There isn’t enough space in this editorial to tell you how much local news matters or to thank you properly for supporting it. I’ll simply say this: We’re very grateful to our community. 

In this edition, you’ll find a classic mix of Kitchissippi topics. 

We take a 150-year journey along Westboro’s streetscape in the latest Early Days. With the pending development at the corner of Richmond Road and Churchill Avenue, we look back at the businesses and community members who have shaped the block’s history since 1873.

For Humans of Kitchissippi, we spent a bit of time getting to know Nancy Mooney better. The local photographer is well-known on Twitter for her shots of nature, wildlife and her ongoing “sunset project” at Westboro Beach.

In Community News, we connected with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women about Unsafe at Home Ottawa, a text/online chat service launched during the pandemic to support women experiencing violence. We reached out to the Parkdale Food Centre to learn more about “Cooking for a Cause,” an initiative that helps serve 3,000 meals to the community weekly. We covered the four year anniversary of the death of Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi, who was killed during a violent altercation with police in 2016. And we quite literally caught up with Marc Gagnon, a local man who decided to walk for 24 hours consecutively to raise awareness on women’s mental health. Finally, have you ever wondered about the E.coli levels at Westboro Beach? This month, we connected with Ottawa Public Health to understand the science behind those red flags at the beach. 

In the arts section, we learned more about local artist Eryn O’Neill and her LRT-themed body of work Ottawa Underground. We also checked in with the organizers of Porchfest to hear how they are adapting the music festival this August. In the community photo collection, our photographer took us on a summer tour of the ward. We’re glad to see that everyone is working hard to maintain safe distance while embracing summer. 

And we’ve got our political columns back in print. Thank you to Coun. Leiper, MPP Joel Harden and MP McKenna for helping to keep the community informed throughout the pandemic. 

Unintentionally, a broad theme emerged in the August edition: Mental health. For exactly a minute, I was surprised. Upon reflection, how was I?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has been at the forefront. All Canadians’ mental health has been impacted in one way or another, with vulnerable populations being even more susceptible to mental health concerns at this time. For months, we’ve been struggling with the concept of a “new normal” or “next normal” and trying to manage continual change in our lives. 

In a July policy paper, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) suggested that Canada was already in the “midst of a mental health crisis” before the pandemic began and now that situation has only been “magnified.” 

“As we move through the initial COVID-19 crisis and adjust to the next normal, it is imperative that we continue to focus on mental health. A recent poll found that 7 out of 10 Ontarians believe that there will be a ‘serious mental health crisis’ as a result of the pandemic,” CAMH wrote. 

So, in turn, our paper reflects that focus. Across several stories, you’ll find mental health awareness and issues are explored. 

Moving forward, whether you take on some advocacy or activism (say a 24-hour walk as an example?), or focus on your own wellbeing and needs, we’re on the same page: Mental health is a clear priority.

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