Mattering is a vital support for people during the COVID-19 pandemic: York University psychology professor


TORONTO, March 31, 2020 – For billions of people around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented event, with an unknown risk to health and well-being not only for individuals but also for their family members, friends, colleagues, and co-workers. In a new commentary, published in The Journal of Concurrent Disorders, York University psychology professor Gordon Flett provides new insight on why the feeling of mattering is an important source of support for people during this pandemic. Knowing that someone cares during times of crises has far-reaching benefits for mental health.

“People need people all of the time but especially in times of crisis and uncertainty,” says Flett. “People can be such a source of comfort to other people by letting them know they care and they are valued. I felt compelled to focus on this topic because of the countless people who are struggling so much right now with worry and feelings of loneliness.”

“Supportive interactions and contacts can make a world of difference and can determine whether someone is able to adapt and survive. However, in this instance, as virtually everyone knows by now, we are all being told at present to keep our physical distance from other people in order to limit the spread of the virus.”

Flett says while this practice is warranted, it can be incredibly difficult for people who need to access emotional support. People who were already anxious and stressed prior to the crisis are particularly in need of reassurance from other people, but it’s impossible during isolation.

In the commentary, co-authored by Masood Zangeneh, Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Innovative Learning, Humber College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning, Flett looks at the SARS outbreak and provides insights about the relevance of feelings of mattering versus not mattering in crisis situations.

“People who are unable to shake or overcome this feeling of not mattering are prone to respond with a variety of maladaptive or perhaps even destructive responses.”

Gordon Flett is Director of the LaMarsh Centre for Child and Youth Research at York University where he specializes in the role of personality factors in depression, health problems, and interpersonal adjustment. His research adopts a lifespan perspective, studying the role of personality in health and mental health in children, adolescents, middle-aged individuals, and the elderly. Flett is available for interviews about the role Mattering can play in supporting people during the COVID-19 outbreak and can speak to the following:

• Why mattering should be at the core of public health initiatives designed to help people through very challenging times
• Why mattering matters more during times of crisis such as the pandemic being experienced at present
• Why efforts to enhance the personal sense of mattering to others and to a broader community are central to coping efforts and maintaining a sense of hope
• The difference between mattering and related concepts such as belongingness and social support
• The vital role of mattering in combating feelings of loneliness and safeguarding the health and mental health of people of all ages especially in crisis situations
• How to build an individual’s sense of Community Mattering

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Media contact:
Anjum Nayyar, York University Media Relations, cell 437-242-1547,