January 26, 2022

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Jamil Jivani: Lockdown-style pandemic restrictions a painful reminder of unhealed wounds

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Canadians are being subjected to lockdown-style public health restrictions again, as we try to stop the COVID-19 omicron variant. Just a week before Christmas, some provincial governments are introducing new capacity limits on businesses and private social gatherings. This follows the New Brunswick government’s disturbing move to permit grocery stores to ban unvaccinated citizens, which they have since walked back after public outrage.

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Most of our collective attention has been paid to how these decisions might impact our upcoming holiday plans. Many are questioning how effective these restrictions might be, and if Canadians will even take heed to new rules after dutifully complying for two years.

As these legitimate questions are debated heading into Christmas and New Year’s, it’s key that we also acknowledge the mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges facing individuals and families across the country. This is a tough time of year generally, when deep-seeded dysfunction and depression often surfaces. And it just got tougher.

The return of lockdown-style policies might be a painful reminder of your wounds that remain unhealed from our battles with COVID-19.

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Yes, you want to be forward-looking and take the right steps to protect our communities. But, you can’t act like the last two years never happened. You’re still feeling the impact of seeing loved ones hurt by the virus, school closures, and businesses shutdowns.

Just because the pace of your life isn’t dictated by the next media ratings season or political election doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. Reality isn’t like the movie Men in Black, where we lose our memory with the push of a button.

Do not be ashamed to talk about what you’re going through. You are not alone.

Canadian children are no doubt still trying to overcome the harm caused by school closures. In June 2021, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Table said students are likely three to six months behind in learning on average. That’s before the summer months, when many working middle class kids fall further behind. And doesn’t factor in how changes to the school day this fall may have caused further harm.

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Parents are also hurting. Fewer married couples are choosing to have kids, due to a wide variety of factors, including the economic impact of the pandemic and government responses to the pandemic. According to Statistics Canada , Canada’s birthrate has fallen to a fifteen year low.

Mental health is surely an issue for Canadians across generations. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health found one year into the pandemic that one in five Canadians reported experiencing high levels of mental distress. How bad might things be two years in?

And mental health issues have undoubtedly contributed to families falling apart. Research from Finder Canada in March 2021 showed that one year into the pandemic, almost five million Canadians had their personal romantic relationships end. That marks 15 per cent of Canadians going through a “pandemic split.”

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On my iHeartRadio talk show, I’ve shared some of my family’s struggles during this pandemic. It hasn’t been easy to open up about what’s been happening in my personal life, but hearing from listeners across Canada who are enduring similar and worse hardships has proven that no Canadian must suffer in isolation.

If we overcome the stigma, shame, guilt, and fear that pushes us into silence, we can find the community support that we need to get through the rest of this pandemic. For me, the support I need has largely come from my Christian faith community.

This holiday season, remember you are not alone.

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