TELUS Talks | Your mental and physical well-being during COVID-19, feat. Dr. Diane McIntosh

(flowing music) – Hi, I’m Tamara Taggart
and you are listening to the first episode of our
TELUS Talks Health podcast. To kick off our first show, our
guest is Dr. Diane McIntosh. She’s a psychiatrist author,
university professor, mental health advocate, and most recently, Chief Neuroscience Officer at TELUS. Diane, thanks for being here. – Thanks for having me. – What is the chief neuroscience
officer at TELUS mean? – That’s a very good question. I think it means that TELUS,
which has become actually the largest healthcare company in Canada is taking mental health very seriously. So they’ve invited me as
a psychiatrist to come in and to influence how they
move into mental health and all of the products
and services they offer. So I think they viewed it as a great, important aspect of the
business to make sure that not only they are taking care of people’s physical health
but also their mental health. – Absolutely, it’s really important especially at a time like this. So I want to have a conversation
with you about COVID-19. Everywhere we go right now,
this is all we’re hearing about. On the news, social media. We’re seeing social events being canceled, live events being canceled. And I thought we could dig into some tips that we could offer people about managing their own mental health and staying healthy that way. And also how we can help other people. So let’s talk about how we
can have a sense of calm in our lives right now
with with everything that’s happening with this pandemic. – Right, well, I think
the most important thing to start off with is to make sure that you’re getting your information from a reliable source. Because I think a lack of understanding, a lack of education
around what is COVID-19. What do I need to do to
keep myself, my family, and my community safe? This is fertilizer for fear. It’s what makes people feel
more anxious, not knowing. And we don’t have all
the answers right now but the most scientific answers, the most up-to-date answers, we need to get those
from reliable sources. And whether it’s the chief medical officer for British Columbia or
whatever province you’re in or the Canadian websites
that offer that information, that’s where you’re going
to get the best information. We all love listening to podcasts, and maybe we’re on Twitter, so you can listen to
those things for pleasure but get your science
from the right sources. – Let’s talk about how we are as a society when something like this happens. Because I think that’s where
a lot of anxiety comes from. So when we turn on the news, we’re seeing that everybody
is hoarding things like antiseptic wipes and toilet paper. And it’s created a panic in my own family where it’s like we need to go out and buy all these things
and bring them home. Why do we do that? – I think we do that because
it’s not just viruses that are contagious,
anxiety is contagious. And so even myself, when I’m
watching these early newscasts and people are buying
all this toilet paper and I’m thinking, “Oh, my goodness. “Should I go out and
get some toilet paper? “Wait a minute, we got
lots of toilet paper here.” What are people doing? Why is this happening? I think when you you’re not sure, you don’t have all the
information, we’re all worried. And let’s be honest. We don’t know the whole story right now. So we’re all a little bit worried. And then we see people reacting in a way that is different and unexpected. And we think, “Should I be part of that? “Should I be doing that too?” And that’s why the information,
the science is so important. Where you get it and making sure that, and telling your friends and family or encouraging them to do the same. And when you hear something
that doesn’t sound right, making sure you go and check it out and make sure that it is accurate. – I find too that a lot
of times, I do it myself. And I know I’m not the only one. You can be sitting at
home on the couch at night and all of a sudden you start
going down the rabbit hole of something on Twitter or
something on a website somewhere and next thing you know,
you’re feeling very scared. Should people be shutting things down that maybe are feeding into their anxiety? – I love that you said that because I think people do
go down those rabbit holes. And they then feel more
anxious, more concerned, what should I do. Turn it off. If you’re getting information
that is causing you to worry, you’re not able to be sure whether that is actually accurate
information, turn it off. Get out of that. Go to a site that gives you
the correct information. And the best information we have is from the chief medical advisors from the province that
you’re in or from Canada. Do not follow yourself
down those rabbit holes because the more time you spend there, the more time you will spend there. Your brain just becomes
patterned into that worry. Being able to pull yourself out, go do something that distracts
you for a period of time. Then come back and have a look
and go to reputable sources. I think we’re spending
a lot of time on this because it’s so important. Because there’s so much
inaccurate information. And even in some countries,
information coming from leaders that is actually making the fear worse. So we really do need
to spend a lot of time saying go to the right place,
get the right information. If you’re getting freaked
out by what you’re reading, get away for a while, distract yourself, and then come back and
find a reputable source. – Let’s talk about taking
care of each other. One would think that
watching people run around hoarding stuff is not
thinking about other people. I’m really worried about people
who are already isolated, whether it be elderly people,
people with disabilities, maybe people that don’t want to go out to get the things they need. Medical supplies,
whatever they might need, if they can even find them right now. So I think there’s a
couple of things here. One, there’s the virtual
care to talk about and how people can access that. And then maybe after we talk about that, we can we can talk about how
we can help our own neighbors. So virtual care, let’s talk about how that works for somebody. – So what we’re trying to do is keep people out of situations where they’re more likely to be exposed. I think if we start off with, we know that there are
a whole lot more people that have been exposed to
this virus than we know in a population. We know that there are a lot of people walking around that are
probably asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. They’re not going to be tested but we know that the virus is out there. This is why we’re getting
these recommendations about social distancing,
which essentially means having at least a meter of distance between anyone else that you’re meeting in any kind of situation. That’s supposed to protect you from not having droplets from that person if they cough or they sneeze. So we shouldn’t be touching each other and we should be staying
at least a meter away. And not being in environments where we’re likely to be
exposed to people easily. For instance, going to movie theaters where there’s a lot of people squished together in a small area. Because we’re more likely
to be touched by them. If they’re coughing or sneezing, we’re likely to get that on us. We know there’s evidence to show that that’s one of the most
protective things we can do. The other most protective thing
we can do, wash our hands. And when we have to touch things that could be touched by other people, where we could spread
that, don’t touch our face and wash your hands as quickly as you can. Why not touch your face? Because you got eyes, nose, and mouth. All ways to get inside you. So your hands touching your face mean that you’re going to
move that virus inside you. Keeping your hands washed. So why are we talking about virtual care? Because going to a doctor’s office where there’s other people sick, where you may be squished
together with someone or touching a surface
or the elevator button that they’ve just touched and don’t wash your hand right away, that could be a little bit of a Petri dish for making you sick. So hospitals, outpatient units, we want to try to avoid
those as much as possible. The opportunity through virtual care is to be able to get on with a
doctor or nurse practitioner, get the information you need to determine where you
should go if you are sick, what the next step you should take without having to be
around another sick person. – It’s pretty amazing that we can do that. – It’s amazing. And I think young people
are picking up on this and love this idea. They’re much more comfortable with it. We gotta get everyone doing this. Because we don’t want people
going to the emergency room or their doctor’s office, anywhere where they’re more
likely to pick up illness. It’s best to try to go
through a virtual care network to be able to get care. Or at least to know what the next step is that you should take by someone who’s a medical
professional and able to know what the next steps that
are appropriate are. – We also need to think of all of our healthcare professionals that are looking after us. We need to protect them.
– Exactly. – They need to stay healthy
so they can look after us. ‘Cause we’ll be in big trouble if they all start getting sick too. – So we’re not worried about
young people at this point. And I want to remind people,
we have a lot of information. We don’t have all of the facts yet but we do have a lot of information. Because unfortunately,
more than 100,000 people have already gotten sick. So other countries are further
along in this pandemic. They have more experience
and we’re learning from them. – 100,000 around the world? – Around the world. So we have that experience. So we know young people, most
of them will be asymptomatic or maybe have very mild symptoms. We think that they can
spread the illness however. So when we have lots of
young people running around and still touching each other
and being close together, they can spread it to
each other, that’s fine. But what we worry about
now is elderly people, people with chronic illnesses. Immunocompromised people. So someone who’s going through
chemotherapy for instance. Those are the people
we have to take care of from an illness perspective
but also as human beings. We are judged as a society by how we treat our
most vulnerable members. And right now our elderly people, people who are immunocompromised
or have chronic illnesses, they are the most vulnerable. We have to start to make plans right now. How do we help them to
stay away from crowds? We don’t want him to go to grocery stores. Maybe you have a neighbor
that needs some help getting their groceries. Keep your distance but help them. Maybe reach out to
people that are isolated because I share the same
concern about loneliness. Being isolated, being afraid to go out. Reach out to people that you know don’t have a lot of contacts and maybe provide them
with a little more support. So there are lots of ways
that we can help those who are most vulnerable. And hoarding means that the
people that are more vulnerable, who are less likely to be able to get out and get their elbows up
and get what they want, they won’t be able to get
stuff when they need it. – Loneliness is really a concern, especially when it comes to mental health. ‘Cause we know that if
you live on your own, you’re elderly or maybe
don’t you have any family that lives in the province or whoever, loneliness comes in all
different shapes and sizes. This could add an extra layer to that if people aren’t socializing,
people aren’t reaching out. But again, we can use
technology to socialize still. I had a glass of wine
with one of my friends on FaceTime last night ’cause
we couldn’t get together. And so it’s really about reaching out to your neighbor too, isn’t it? And extending a helping hand
or even a “Hello, how are you?” – It’s interesting
because we’ve never been more socially connected and
we’ve never been lonelier. And so that’s why I was
talking about the idea of connecting with people that you know. It’s one thing to be
online and you’re tweeting to a gazillion people that you don’t know. Making a real human
connection with someone, letting them know you care,
that you’re thinking about them. A FaceTime experience with someone that you haven’t talked to for a while that you think may be lonely. Making a human connection is
really important right now. – Can give us any signs
about how we would know if somebody is really struggling with their mental health through this over the next few weeks. If maybe they’re really
scared or their anxieties. What are some signs that we
can look for in other people to know that they might
need a little extra care? – I think all of us are
a little bit anxious. I think if we’re honest,
we’re all not sure. We don’t have all the facts. There are already people out there that are struggling with
anxiety or their mood or symptoms or feeling
quite isolated already. So I think many people are not necessarily going to be open with sharing what’s happening. I think you ask the
question, “How are you doing? “Are you finding you’re coping okay? “Are you finding that
you’re feeling lonely? “What can I do to help you
to feel less lonely here?” Because I don’t know that
it’s easy to figure out what’s happening on a
phone call with someone if they’re not willing to share. But if you ask questions specifically, and draw them out a little bit, that can help to
understand what’s going on. – Yeah, so it’s about communication. Not being afraid to reach out and asking hard questions to somebody you might be worried about. – I think that’s the only way really, is to reach out, to communicate, to let people know “I
am worried about you. “Tell me what’s going on. “What can I do to help?” Some people don’t want help. But asking and offering
I think is valuable. – Okay, one more time to go back to this. If you have a friend who’s
like, “Listen, if I get this, “it’s not a big deal. “I don’t have to worry
about it, I’ll be fine. “So I’m gonna go out and continue on “with you know everything
that I normally do.” Is that irresponsible in your eyes? – Of course. I mean, it’s antisocial
behavior really, isn’t it? You need to make sure that you’re not just
thinking about yourself but our entire community. People are losing their loved ones because they’re ill or they’re older. I know I’m deeply
concerned about my in-laws who are in Nova Scotia
and they’re in their 90s. They are the most vulnerable group. So we all need to be responsible and follow the rules that are laid out by our health authorities
because otherwise, people, innocent people who are
just going about their lives are going to die because
you want to make sure that you can go to the movies or whatever it is you want to do. – Somebody described it to me as people who don’t
understand what ableism is. This is a perfect example of ableism. When you you can walk out
and say, “Well, if I get it, “I’ll be fine. “I’m a healthy 40-year-old,”
or whatever it might be. Because you’re discarding
people who don’t matter because they’re older or
disabled or already sick. And it is ableism to
only think about yourself and not think about others. And you’re right, the best thing we can do is stay home, stay safe, wash your hands, do all of those things. So now we’re doing all of those things and we are taking care of our neighbors. Let’s talk about kids for a minute. So I have three small kids. And they’re scared but they
don’t know why they’re scared. And we talk about it and we explain it. And their grandma’s 80 years old. And so we’ve explained all that. How do we talk to kids or teenagers that might be feeling scared themselves. That they’re gonna get sick or get their grandparents sick? – Well I think you made the point in saying you have young kids. It’s very different to talk to them than to talk to older kids. I try to make sure I don’t
give too much information and I ask questions. “You seem a little worried?” “Are you worried about this? “What are you worried about?” Let’s answer the questions
that they bring to you. For older kids, I want to make sure that they’re not reading
things on the Internet that are seeding fear, that are not science-based. So first of all, asking a question. “Are you worried about this at all?” “Nah, I’m not worried about it.” “Are you sure?” And then if they come
back with some questions, making sure that if you
don’t know the answer, that you go online with them and make sure they’re
looking at reputable sources. – And how do we protect our
grandparents and people? How are you handling your
relationship with your mom? So your mom, your mom lives here? – Yes. – Okay, so will you go see
her and everything’s fine ’cause you think you’re healthy? Or how does that work? – And I think that gets
back to our concern about, we can be asymptomatic carriers. So all of us should be working
with this social distancing. Making sure, and kids, we
know that they can get sick. There are many kids that are walking around
with this right now. We don’t know. Not having grandchildren hanging out with their grandparents
if they’re not able to keep that social distance. Because we want to protect
the most vulnerable. But talking about my mum. Because I think I’m at this
place of telling people you need to control what you can control. We can’t control that this is happening. We can’t control what’s
going on with the economy or the fact that we’re
facing this pandemic. What we can control is washing our hands and doing the things that
we know will protect us, the evidence shows us are most protective. And we also have to
take care of ourselves. So I did get a call from my mum saying, “I’m afraid to go outside.” The best thing for her
right now is to go outside. But to be very careful when
she’s going down the elevator that she’s wearing gloves
and pressing the buttons, she washes her hands as
soon as she gets home. Being outside in nature we
know is helpful, it’s calming. She’s going to behave
much more differently if she has to go to the bank for instance. Then she’s going to make sure she’s keeping her social distance. That she’s very careful
with her hand washing, she keeps her hands away from her face. That she keeps that
distance with the teller and with other people in line. But I think we’re at a point
now the spread is still low, that we want people to go outside and we want them to go
on with their lives. But to control the things they can control with hand washing and distancing. When you’re at home, what are
you gonna do with your time? You gotta do self-care. You have to make sure
that you’re sleeping well, that you’re eating healthily. That you’re keeping up your routines. Exercise is a treatment
for depression and anxiety. And unfortunately, those
things that we usually do to take care of ourselves are the first to go out the
window when we’re stressed out. Everyone should be trying
to keep their routines as close to normal as possible. Taking care of themselves,
doing things that they enjoy. Because we don’t just have
a week or two of this. This is gonna go on for a while and if we don’t maintain healthy routines, this is going to destabilize people. Particularly ones that
are more vulnerable. – Would you recommend going to
a place like a gym right now? – I wouldn’t recommend
older people go anywhere where there are large groups right now. And older, I know I’m
getting closer and closer to older every day. But the health officers are recommending anyone who’s 60 and over should make sure to keep their distance. So not be in places where
there are large gatherings and always being able to
have at least a meter away from someone wherever you are. But I think everyone should be avoiding those gathering places
because if you do get sick, you can spread it to vulnerable people. Where you should be going, for walks. Going in nature as much as you can. Going out on your bike. Those kinds of things where
you have a safe distance from other people but that
you’re around the trees and the grass and you’re moving your body and you’re not feeling isolated at home. – You can get some good meditation and yoga classes online too. There’s lot’s of them.
– Exactly. – And what about masks? Let’s talk about masks? Do we need to be wearing
a mask when we’re out? – So the evidence is clear that
masks will not protect you. And in fact, once you’ve got a mask on for about 30 minutes, it’s no good anyway. The value of a mask right
now is that if you are sick, trying to prevent droplets from spreading. What makes me distressed
about all the people that I’m seeing wearing masks is that we have a shortage of masks for people who actually need them, including healthcare professionals. I heard on the radio the other day dentists are having trouble getting masks. So this is a socially
irresponsible behavior to go and buy up all these masks when they make no difference
for the average person as far as whether they’re
gonna get sick or not. What makes a difference? Washing your hands,
not touching your face, and keeping a social distance. – Okay, and just to wrap it up. We’ve talked about loneliness, we’ve talked about what we can do. What are the top three things you think for someone that is staying
home as much as they can, being responsible with
their social distancing. Top three things that we can
do to keep our minds healthy? – I would say the number one thing is trying to keep the usual schedule or patterns of your life. You may be working from home now but trying to get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time. Trying to make sure you
get the best sleep you can. Eating healthily, include
exercise in your everyday life. All of those are healthy aspects of life. Even more important now that our usual patterns
of life have changed. I would say talking to your kids. Keeping about this and making sure that they understand in
an age-appropriate way. Looking and making sure the
facts that you have are correct. And protecting the others in our community that are less safe, the most vulnerable. Reaching out to your neighbor. Giving some money to
the food bank right now. Because as we’re having some shortages, people who might use food banks are more vulnerable to losing their job with the whole economy right now. So reaching out to others
who are more vulnerable. Again, keeping your safe
distance from everyone. – There’s a lot going on right now. – There’s a lot going
on and we already know that people are struggling with anxiety, with depression right now. This is adding to people’s anxiety. How do we reduce that? Knowledge. Knowing what the science
is and using the tools that we know work to help to keep us safe. – Amazing. Thank you so much, Dr. McIntosh, for being here with us. – It’s my pleasure. – Really appreciate it. You have been listening to the
TELUS Talks Health podcast. Remember, you can go to for all the information,
up-to-date information that you need. And you can also follow TELUS on Twitter @TELUS or @TELUSNews. (flowing music)

6 thoughts on “TELUS Talks | Your mental and physical well-being during COVID-19, feat. Dr. Diane McIntosh

  1. Remember Mother Teresa ? Walking with Lepers. Daily involved with illness and poverty. How did she get away with it ? Knowledge . Our bodies produce Oxcytocin which is released in our bodies from Hugs and Handshakes ! Watch The video Why Leaders Eat Last , by Simon Sinek . Youtube wins again ! Awesome information ! Enjoy ! I loved it . !

  2. Interesting you are mentioning “anxiety” and “keeping a routine” while it seems your employees in Canada are NOT keeping a routine at all, are being overworked, and stressed it seems. One of your reps told my wife (after some 45 min. wait) that your call centres worldwide closed and now they have the burden of answering questions for our services they don’t understand. I had to pickup the phone and explain it!!! BRING JOBS BACK TO CANADA.

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