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Mental Health vs. Mental Illness:
know the differences and what you can do if you need help

Over the course of the last several months, the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many people, for a variety of reasons, such as being stuck at home, unable to see loved ones and having anxiety over getting sick. The effect, among other things, could take a toll on some people’s mental – and physical – health. Keep reading to learn more, and what you can do about it during these uncertain times.

Mental Health

Mental health is defined by the Canadian Mental Health Association as a state of well-being. And like physical health, it requires work and proper maintenance to thrive. At an optimal level, that means the ability to enjoy life, cope with stress, cultivate strong relationships, and feel a sense of purpose. But things like stress, a cold or flu or a traumatic life event can cause our mental health to suffer.1

Here are some tips to improve mental health:

senior man on a bicycle

  • Be active

    Exercising relieves muscle tension, improves blood flow and causes your body to produce feel-good endorphins — try going for a walk, jog or bike ride outside while maintaining proper social distancing
  • Eat healthy

    Eating a well-balanced diet, and minimizing intake of caffeine and alcohol, keeps your mood and energy levels steady
  • Practice healthy thinking

    Analyzing situations from all sides rather than focusing on just the positives or negatives, improves confidence and self-esteem
  • Get a good night’s sleep

    Getting enough sleep rests the brain, repairs and replenishes brain cells
  • Make connections

    Building a network of friends, family members and co-workers can provide the support needed to navigate through difficult periods, whether over the phone, through the computer or in-person
cutting fruit

Mental Illness

Mental illness, however, is any acquired condition — to which no one is immune, even adolescents with between 50% and 70 cases showing signs before the age of 18,2 — causing a disturbance in one’s thoughts, feelings and perceptions severe enough to hinder day-to-day functioning. One in five Canadians will experience a mental health problem and/or mental illness in their lifetime.3

Getting help

  • For 24/7 non-emergency assistance with everything from choosing a healthy meal plan to assessing symptoms, visit the HealthLink BC website at or call 8-1-1 to speak to a health service coordinator who can also connect you to other health care professionals if necessary.
  • 310 Mental Health Support can be reached at 310-6789 (no area code needed) and offers emotional support, information and resources.
  • Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only national helpline for young people between the ages of five and 20 where they can speak to a counsellor by calling 1.800.668.6868 or text a volunteer crisis responder at 686868.

BCAA Health & Dental Insurance

To fill in any financial gaps from government health care plans, BCAA Health & Dental Insurance plans can help with paying for prescribed medications and treatment. The mental health benefit partially covers the cost of registered professionals including psychologists, marriage and family therapists, social workers, drug and alcohol counsellors and more.

To learn more about BCAA Health & Dental Insurance visit