When asked to describe their emotional and mental states, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, many British Columbians still use shortcuts such as “I’m fine.”

But according to new data released on Monday by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), 77 per cent of those in B.C. who respond to the age old question of “how are you?” in that way are feeling more negative emotions than positive ones these days.

Around 53 per cent responded negatively when questioned on their mental health, as opposed to the 47 per cent that had a positive response.

Despite the rise in popularity of video-conferencing and social media usage, Canadians are feeling more isolated than ever — up from 39 per cent to 47 per cent in less than one month — and crave real, meaningful connections.

Due to the nature of the ongoing pandemic, two-thirds of British Columbians (or 66 per cent) report they would like to experience more meaningful social interactions in their daily life.

This data was released to mark Canada’s 69th annual Mental Health Week, which runs from May 4th to May 10th this year.

“Most Canadians want more social connection, yet they’re reluctant to have the kind of honest, open conversations that build the connection they crave,” says Margaret Eaton, national CEO of CMHA.

“In our society, it’s a cultural norm to ask people how they’re doing, but not to expect, nor provide, a truthful answer. This Mental Health Week, it’s time to get real about how we feel. It’s clear we need each other more than ever.”

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions describes Mental Health Week as a week to celebrate, protect, and promote mental health. The theme this year is “social connection,” and it couldn’t be more timely.

“By talking about our mental health, we are creating the vital connections that will help us through this pandemic and beyond. I encourage everyone to do their part and get real about mental health — because the only way to get through this is together,” said Minister Judy Darcy in an op-ed shared today.

“And remember, when someone asks you how you are, it’s okay to say, ‘I’m not okay’.”

The province moved quickly to provide $5 million for virtual mental health supports for people around B.C., with a focus on front-line health care workers, unsettled young people and their families, and isolated seniors who are seeking connection and help with day-to-day activities.

The Government of Canada has also launched a mental health portal to support Canadians amid COVID-19 called Wellness Together Canada, which provides free online tools to those who need it.

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