Could a Minister of Loneliness help Canada's seniors through the pandemic's isolation?
MONTREAL -- As Canada's COVID winter drags on some are looking across the Atlantic for a possible way to help those suffering from loneliness and isolation.
The British government recently introduced a Minister of Loneliness, whose sole job is to tackle the problem of social isolation. In Canada, loneliness has proven to be a silent killer, particularly for seniors.
According to the Centre for Suicide Prevention, people above the age of 65 have the highest suicide rate in Canada.
“Loneliness and lack of socialization is one of the biggest factors towards older adults having mental health issues,” said Bill Vangorder of the Canadian Association for Retired People.
Vangorder said a government position such as that found in Great Britain could help fill the needs of lonely seniors.
“It's much easier to raise money for children and puppy dogs than it is for older adults who are lonely and that's where the government needs to step in,” he said.
Stephane Lauzon, Canada's Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors, said he doesn't believe a Minister of Loneliness is needed, as Canada has a good system in place for mental health.
“We're partners with the province and territories and we make sure that the money we provide to the province will go to mental health,” he said. “That's the way we have to work... together.”
Mental health counsellor Parneet Chohan said the government must step in to help de-stigmatize mental health struggles.
“Sometimes we can feel shame in feeling lonely,” she said. “Then it's hard to acknowledge that we're feeling lonely because we might feel embarrassed or ashamed that we even feel that feeling in the first place.”
The pandemic has made isolation particularly gruelling, Chohan said, because of the lack of needed physical contact.
“We need each other's nervous systems, we need other people to help us regulate ourselves, (such) someone else's heartbeat having an impact on our heartbeat,” she said.