Alberta's cold snap can increase isolation and depression, says Counselling Centre

·2 min read

As Alberta climbs out of the polar vortex, the frigid temperatures can be extra challenging for those who have depression and anxiety.

Most Albertans are accustomed to at least one cold snap a year, but Robbie Babins-Wagner, CEO of the Calgary Counselling Centre, said it can be a very restrictive experience for some.

"I think with COVID, people just feel that some of the flexibility, some of the options that we've had, are no longer there. It's harder to go outside when it's cool," Babins-Wagner said.

The CEO said that right now, it is important for people with depression and anxiety to pay attention to their symptoms.

According to Babins-Wagner, falling out of a regular routine, a changing diet or appetite, and reluctance to reach out to friends and family can be signals that something is wrong.

She is encouraging people having a hard time during the cold snap to reach out.

"We have a number of groups where people are not even just with one counselor, they with other people that are in the same boat as they are," she said.

Babins-Wagner says that their group has done around 35 sessions this year since they began to offer online counselling.

"This is an opportunity where individual counselling can help, but we also strongly recommend that people that are alone, people that need more support … participate in one of our discussion groups because then you have a circle of support around you that you can connect with," she said.

Calgarian Tracy MacLellan has depression and lives alone — making her feel overwhelmed during this time.

"Between the restrictions, because of COVID and the weather, I feel even more isolated," she said.

"It's very different from being sad. We can all be somewhat sad or frustrated with the weather, but depression and anxiety are a very different thing."

Alberta is expected to climb out of the deep freeze by the start of next week, and MacLellan says she will be relieved.

"Just the ability to be outside, and be happy outside," she said.