The impact of coronavirus is touching many of us in various ways – socially, financially, psychologically.
One in 4 individuals experience mental health illness in their lifetime. Anxiety and depression are amongst the top contributors to the disease burden around the world – impacting individuals psychologically and physically. According to a 2018 study by the Mental Health Foundation (UK), 74% of individuals (of a sample of 4,619 respondents) felt a level of stress that overwhelmed them or they felt unable to cope with.
The current uncertain circumstances resulting from coronavirus epidemic have increased that stress and anxiety, impacting individuals directly – worry about contracting the virus or family contracting the virus and the heath implications – and indirectly – financial consequences, loneliness, poverty etc.
Some individuals may be experiencing anxiety as they are more vulnerable because of physical illness and age. Or experiencing anxiety due to loved ones who may be more vulnerable.
Some individuals may be experiencing anxiety because their loved ones are front line workers.
Some individuals may be experiencing on-going stress and anxiety about the uncertainty of their livelihoods and financial situation with the lack of work coming in and the fear of redundancy/ loss of roles or the possibility of poverty.
Some individuals may be experiencing increased isolation and loneliness as they see the few social contacts they have had – carers, attending clubs or day-care centres, seeing their care-workers.
Some individuals may fear greater exposure to aggression or abuse in what may already be difficult situations.
Some individuals may be at risk of their mental health/ illness deteriorating as social isolation means that they will have less contact with family and services that support them.
Some individuals may be experiencing increased stress and anxiety by the uncertain times and uncertain future.
It is more important than ever to ensure that we identify ways to look after ourselves and also provide support to those around us, and who are vulnerable and may be struggling to support themselves.
Some ways we can look after ourselves and support others by:
Abiding by the government guideline and staying home – The guidelines we have from health organisations and government are there to try to contain the spears of the virus and to keep people safe – including those who are most vulnerable.
- Stay home.
- Work from home (unless you are an essential worker eg. NHS)
- Only go out if essential – one exercise a day, for shop, supporting a vulnerable person.
- Practice social distancing – you may feel that you are not at risk or vulnerable to being unwell, but others around you maybe.
Managing our own stress and health:
- Keeping a routine – work, home, children.
- Ensuring as much as possible to eat healthy and regular meals.
- Exercise through walking/ jogging (while adhering to social distancing) or at home.
- As humans it is important to the stability of our mental health to know what we can and can not control. It is a balance between acceptance of the current uncertainty, while identifying what we are in control of – such as making decisions that keep us safe, managing infection in our environment, managing catastrophic thinking.
- Reduce reassurance seeking. Our mind creates a feedback loop, where the more external reassurance seeking we engage in the more reliant we become on this to manage our anxieties – but the anxiety reduction is always temporary.
- Identify coping statements to reduce catastrophic or unhelpful thinking. For example replacing “Everyone I know is going to die” with “While I can not predict what will happen to my loved ones, most people who have COVID-19 recover. My Mum/ Dad/ Sister/ Nan is making sure they self isolate and looking after themselves, reducing their vulnerability and risk”.
- Allocate ‘worry time’ (where possible) to contain the amount of time you spend worrying about the direct and indirect impact of COVID-19.
- Try using breathing, grounding (will be in a separate post) or mindfulness techniques to manage anxiety and distress.
- Having a realistic perspective – try to stay informed and ensure you have the correct information, through organisations such as the NHS and the World Heath Organisation. However, try to reduce the amount of contact you have with social media – social media can feed anxiety and mis-information, increasing catastrophic thinking and panic.
- Try to look at all the options you have to keep in contact with support systems. It can feel difficult/ uncomfortable to use phone or on-line therapeutic support initially, but it is important because if you can you maintain this contact and support, in the long term it will reduce anxiety, decrease loneliness/ isolation and help reduce the risk of relapse.
Supporting family and friends by:
- Calling isolated loved ones.
- Offering support to friends and a space to talk.
- If you are a carer, looking after yourself where you can.
- Recognising that those of you looking after someone who may have a mental health illness, physical illness or disability, may be more stressed/ anxious or struggling with symptoms, particularly anxiety and low mood, because of the additional uncertainties, fears and change.
- If you are someone who is struggling with a mental health illness, physical health illness or disability do not try and manage on your own and not reach out for help. During a crisis, sometimes we may feel that our own struggles as less important then what may be occurring. However, it is better to ask for support earlier, to stop things for us progressing to a crisis or relapse.
Supporting the vulnerable in our community:
- Volunteering to support the NHS or vulnerable members in our community if possible.
- Donating to food banks or organisations such as Shelter to support those who may be needing these services because of low income or loss of work.
- Supporting/ encouraging others in accessing support from charity and support services such as crisis lines, Samaritans, Citizen’s Advice etc.
Finally, remember that though there is a current crisis, and social isolation is the ‘norm’ for now, this will too change and is temporary.
*Services you could contact for additional support –
- Samaritans – Hotline Call: 116 123; Website: http://www.samaritans.org
- Childline – Support line call: 0800 111; Website: http://www.childline.org.uk
- Mind (UK) – Infoline:0300 123 3393; Email: email@example.com; Website: http://www.mind.org.uk
- Age UK – Info and support line call:0800 678 1602; Website http://www.ageuk.org.uk
- If you have a therapist/ support worker/ care-coordinator getting in contact with them for additional support sooner rather than later can prevent relapse.
- In a mental health crisis contact your local crisis team/ Community Mental Health Team (it will be a different number depending on your borough).
- If you are worried about coronavirus, log onto the NHS website – www. nhs.uk/conditions/coronovirus-covid-19/ ; For urgent medical advice contact the NHS on 111.