World Mental Health Day - 2020

As many parts of the world now face a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and disruptions to day-to-day life continue, this year’s World Mental Health Day could not be more significant. Experts suggest that the need for mental health and psychological support will substantially increase in the coming months and years as a result of the pandemic and raising awareness for mental health issues is now more important than ever.


In order to engage and educate the public on the implications of the pandemic in light of our four founding themes—Human rights and dignity; Responsible citizenship; Canada and the world; and, People and their natural environment—the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation created the COVID-19 Impact Committee last spring. This Committee brings together experts and leading thinkers in various sectors, including the scientific and public health fields, to provide solutions and information to the general public. Many Committee members have focused on the impacts of mental health for different segments of the population and have written and published Op-eds, detailing the long-term societal effects of COVID-19, with our partner media organizations La Presse and the Toronto Star.


We invited Committee Chair and 2020 Fellow, Vardit Ravitsky, and Committee member, 2018 Scholar, Mohammad Karamouzian, for their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has created.


Has the context of the pandemic created new opportunities to discuss gender equality concerns? Here is what Vardit Ravitsky had to say:

“The pandemic creates ample opportunities to better address gender inequity in our society. It shines a spotlight on the devastating implications gender inequality can have. From the disproportional health impact on women in caregiving professions, to the disastrous increase in domestic violence, the pandemic showed the multiple ways in which inequity opens the door to suffering and abuse. In the short term, our society needs to dedicate the necessary resources to identify and implement solutions, such as shelters that can function during quarantine. In the long term, we should increase our efforts to address gender inequity from a systemic perspective.

Pregnant women face great psycho-social challenges related to isolation, at a time that family and social support is extremely needed. In the rare cases where women had to give birth alone, the traumatizing effects could have long-term consequences. Women have shown incredible resilience and developed inspiring coping mechanisms. As a society, we should learn from their experiences and consider how to create support systems to reduce the negative impact of isolation on mental health during pregnancy.”


In a recent Toronto Star article, Mohammad Karamouzian describes the pandemic as undeniably affecting us all but not being the “great equalizer” for marginalized communities in Canada.


How is the pandemic further affecting the mental health of marginalized populations? Here is what he had to say:

“It is not surprising that the economic uncertainty, concerns about contracting SARS-CoV-2, worries about children’s mental health and education, and physical distancing measures that Canadians are experiencing today, have worsened their psychological well-being and mental health. While everybody’s mental health is somewhat affected, large-scale Canadian surveys (Angus Reid Institute, Statistics Canada, and the Canadian Mental Health Association) show that everyone is not affected equally, and the disadvantages faced by marginalized people (e.g., people with pre-existing mental health conditions, people living with disabilities, people living with substance use disorders, people struggling with housing and food insecurity, Indigenous people, low-wage and low-income households, racialized communities, and LGBTQ+) are further amplified. Indeed, recent data show that the mental health of those who are already socio-economically and structurally marginalized have got significantly worse compared to others. COVID-19 has, however, provided an exciting opportunity to discuss practical upstream interventions such as universal basic income, safer supply of drugs, and affordable housing for all, which are crucial in addressing the root causes of poor social determinants of mental health among marginalized Canadians.”


Well before the pandemic, mental health was an important concern for the Foundation. In 2018, the Foundation adopted its Policy on Mental Health, which has been offering mental health support to Scholars for the last two years. On this World Mental Health Day, the Foundation wishes to remind its active scholars that they have access, when needed, to mental health resources and services and encourages them to make use of them.


United Nations International Days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce the achievements of humanity. For a contextual and relational approach to these issues related to the impacts of COVID-19, you may find Vardit Ravitsky’s article in La Presse, Les impacts sociaux de la COVID-19: place à la solidarité d’après-crise, published this summer.

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Vardit Ravitsky

  • Fellow 2020
Vardit Ravitsky (B.A. (Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) M.A., (University of New Mexico), PH.D. (Bar-Ilan University)) is Professor at the Bioethics…
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Mohammad Karamouzian

  • Scholar 2018
Mohammad Karamouzian (population and public health, University of British Columbia) seeks to determine how individual and structural factors - from…