Having a real social connection

June 12, 2020

Connecting with other people and our communities is good for our mental health.

1 in 5

Canadians will have
a mental illness this year

Source: Kessler, R.C., Chlu, W.T., Demler, O., Walters, E.E. (2005). Prevalence, Severity, and Comorbidity of 12-Month DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62(6), 617-627.

Over the past few years, our social landscape has changed considerably, often shifting our focus from in-person connections to online connections. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an emphasis on social distancing, forcing our connections to exist solely in a digital space.

While the ability to connect with colleagues and loved ones electronically has helped many during these interesting times, the mental health challenges that Canadians face all year round are certainly being exacerbated by the lack of connection and the extended periods of isolation.

Understanding the importance of social connection, the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Week calls for us to #GetReal with how we really feel.

Loneliness and social isolation

Research indicates that those with weak or limited social connections are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, anti-social and suicidal behaviours.1 Not having strong relationships also has a high impact on the risk of mortality in a way that is comparable way to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.2

So, what does this mean for us? Long before COVID-19, Canadians were trying to cope with loneliness and social isolation, further proving that we need to #GetReal about how we feel and embrace each other and the supports available to us.

Did you know: Last year, almost 10 per cent of the overall health claims processed (specifically related to counselling and drug therapy) under the Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) benefit plans were attributed to mental health.


The number of Canadians
Missing work this week due
to mental illness

The importance of social connection

Connecting with other people and our communities doesn’t just feel good. It’s good for our mental health. Even if we can’t be close physically with one another, we need to stay close emotionally. Phone calls, video calls and other digital technologies offer excellent opportunities for connecting face-to-face, even when we can’t be in the same room.

 It’s time to #GetReal about how we feel and reach out for support.

We need to be brave and deliberate in our social connections, focusing on having real conversations with our friends, family, neighbours and co-workers about how we’re really doing. With physical distancing in effect, we are learning that we don’t have to be close to feel close. We are together, even when we’re apart.

Looking for services and resources on mental health?

Benefits coverage under your ETFO Employee Life and Health Trust (ELHT) benefit plans include services that can provide you with support.

The ETFO ELHT Benefits Plan offers coverage for the following services for support:

  • Psychologist, psychotherapist, registered family therapist and social worker
  • Up to $1,500 combined per benefit year

If you have been prescribed medication to help treat your mental illness, you can use the My drug plan to find out if it is covered under the plan.

As a member of the ETFO ELHT Benefits Plan, you can access FeelingBetterNow® (FBN), 24/7. This resource provides information and tools to assist with mental health. You can confidentially identify mental health issues early and take immediate action, allowing you to stay healthy and productive at work.

All educators can also access:


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2940247/

2 Harvard Health Publishing. 2010. “The health benefits of strong relationships.” Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships


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