We need to "accept that not everything is okay": New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote

Apr 17 2020, 12:32 pm

The past month has been a difficult time for everyone.

Our whole world has been turned upside down in an instant. We’ve lost loved ones, businesses shut down permanently, layoffs are happening everywhere, and so much more. There’s no such thing as normal, and this is new for everyone.

No matter what anyone says, none of this is easy. It’s taken a toll on our physical wellbeing and, more importantly, on our mental health.

In a letter posted on his social media channels, New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote got personal, saying exactly what we need to be admitting: we need to “all be aware and accept that not everything is okay.”

“We don’t need to pretend that things are normal or demonstrate that the crisis is really just a big personal growth opportunity,” he wrote.

It’s okay to admit we’re not at our best – and we don’t need to be. During these trying times, there’s nothing wrong with seeking help and looking for support from others. We’re all in this together, and chances are we’re all feeling the same thing.

For those seeking mental health support, the provincial and federal governments have made free resources available online, including access to low- and no-cost community counselling programs and online peer supports.

Visit the provincial and federal mental health portals for more information.

Read Cote’s full letter here:

Dear New Westminster,

During the crisis I have tried to be more active on social media and stay connected with residents. It has been a useful medium to share information and try to instill hope and a sense of community which is even more important these days.

However, the crisis has highlighted one of the short comings of social media, as it often projects an unrealistic glossier image of people’s lives. This can be particularly debilitating for those who are not weathering the Covid-19 storm as well as others.

It is because of this, that I wanted to spend some time sharing some honest personal stories in the hopes we can normalize and accept the pain many of us our going through right now.

For those that know me well, 2020 was already a tough year before the crisis began. A terrible accident in early February left a close family member in hospital for most of the month and ultimately her passing.

At the onset of this crisis our family was still very much grieving. At times the crisis has helped my family become closer and it has been a needed distraction. At other times it feels like we are being kicked while we are already down.

The reality is we didn’t all start this crisis with a blank slate, for many the crisis has layered new stresses and challenges on top of already difficult situations.

Our lives are now being lived out in very different ways. How we work (or don’t work), socialize and connect with family has been turned upside down. 

In our home we have three daughters, a dog, and a cat. My wife and I are mainly working from home. My wife has claimed the dining room and me the bedroom. The kids are rotating on the family computer to work with online learning.

Although my social media posts might give the impression of a highly organized household full of structure, joy, and love, the reality is much more chaotic. Our kids are going stir crazy and they dearly miss their friends. Nothing seems normal anymore.

This has also not been an easy time at work. My job has never been a 9-5 job but that has only been exacerbated by the crisis.

Some parts of the job (community meetings and events) have disappeared, but the challenges that arise every day because of the crisis require immediate solutions and decisions.

As someone who prides himself at taking the time to make methodical collaborative decisions, this new environment is requiring me to work differently. Knowing that so many people are struggling but not having the tools available to help everyone is also difficult.

Managing organizations that are under significant pressure, while still trying to deliver services that people need and expect is also proving to be a daunting task. Like most work places there is a lot more stress and anxiety about the future.

We know the difficult decisions we are being faced with are more than just numbers on a spreadsheet, they are about and affect real people.

Although our family is facing its struggles, we know it pales in comparison to how many others are suffering. I hope this honest letter is received the way it was intended and lets us all be aware and accept that not everything is okay.

In these difficult times, it is okay to not be at your best, it is okay to cry, it is okay to eat that entire jumbo bag of potato chips, it is okay to stay up late binge watching the “Tiger King”, and it is okay to laugh at silly memes. I can admit I have done all of those things.

We don’t need to pretend that things are normal or demonstrate that the crisis is really just a big personal growth opportunity.

I know we will find hope and I know our community will come together and become stronger, but we also need to be honest about the difficulties we are facing together.

Love

Jonathan Cote

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