Mental health, the Holocaust and a convoy

Welcome to my Venn diagram of worry.

I’m sitting here scrolling through social media trying to decide on a column focus, and there are three topics that keep wanting my attention. This week it was one corporation’s annual attempt to normalize mental health, we had a convoy of truckers going through the city on their way to Ottawa to secure “freedom,” and it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. I now have a mental Venn diagram of these three overlapping circles with a very worrisome intersection in the middle where they all meet.

Bell had its annual Let’s Talk day in support of mental health this week. I applaud the effort, as talking about mental health is important so that no one feels afraid to reach out and say that they are not OK. Unfortunately, it seems more like lip service now.

While talking about mental health, I think we need to be very open about the fact that the pandemic has been emotionally exhausting. We all want better for ourselves and our families, regardless of our vaccination status or beliefs. We want any opportunity to jump to the end of the pandemic as quickly as possible. Most of us did that by getting the vaccinations because we were told that we would be able to do the things that we love and see the people whom we love if we complied. Others are going a different route (quite literally, with the freedom convoy that feels like United We Roll – the sequel).

For the overlap of the circles of mental health and the convoy, both Bell and some convoy supporters are using someone else’s issues as self-centred propaganda. Some very vocal leaders of the convoy have morphed the original cause and are preying on good peoples’ frustration and likely compromised pandemic mental health to forward their agendas of divisiveness and hatred.

Then there was Holocaust Remembrance Day this week to honour those who lost their lives and livelihoods because of the Nazis. In addition, on Jan. 15, there was a hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue, and since then, the Jewish community is warning Canadian synagogues that there may be copycat attacks. I am still baffled that some people continue to hate others solely based on permanent characteristics such as race, religion, and sexual preference.

The second overlap in circles is between the mental health and Holocaust Remembrance days. The mental health of the Jewish community and allies are affected when anyone suggests that the Holocaust didn’t happen. Personal safety becomes a concern, as does a wavering belief in the system that seems to allow far-right threats and calls for violence to continue relatively unchecked.

The overlap of the circles of Holocaust Remembrance Day and the freedom convoy is the most disturbing. White supremacists’ involvement in the convoy has been widely reported. One of their “leaders,” Pat King, likes to create fake news, including when he said that the Holocaust only affected 1.5 million Jews (as opposed to six million murdered Jews – not to mention millions of other victims).

Lastly, in the centre of my Venn diagram of worry, where all three circles overlap, my, and others’, mental health is impacted when convoys have leaders who are openly antisemitic, denying the Holocaust’s impact (as well as being Islamaphobes, racist, and…), heading to the nation’s capital to secure freedoms for, supposedly, all Canadians. It feels very un-Canadian and I can’t help but be a little scared.

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