On the 23rd March 2020, the announcement of the lockdown in the UK shook the Country. It goes without saying that several people were and are still are being affected. Those who experienced isolation due to shielding and quarantine; those who experienced loss of loved one to those that were not able to grieve the way they would have wanted. There has also been heightened anxiety due to worry of the whole pandemic. Working from home as not been all roses.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crises that has not only has physical consequences but has also led to a mental health crises. Psychological distress manifesting as heightened anxiety and symptoms of depression are some of the consequences we are seeing.
Recent studies have suggested that symptoms such as sleep disturbances, feelings of fear and low mood have been on the increase since the pandemic. The financial impact of the pandemic has understandably exacerbated this even more. We saw the stockpiling behaviour at the start of the ‘lock down’ and this can be representative of fear and anxiety amongst the population.
The Thursday 8pm applause for frontline workers was a kind gesture and appreciation but this does not take away the horrendous trauma that they faced especially at the peak of the pandemic where they people were dying as flies (as one ICU nurse quoted).
There was a time where when we were faced with unsuccessful resuscitation of a patient, we would debrief as a team – taking special attention to the emotional aspect of all the involved team members. In this pandemic, of course this practice just was not a feasible practicality.
Let’s talk about individuals with family members affected by COVID-19 especially those who required critical care. Not being able to visit loved ones and for some not being able to communicate with them if the required technology was not available , would have been very distressing and isolating for patients and their family & friends. A patient who was ventilated for over 4 weeks said “she would wake up and not see her family and would be so distressed as she felt her family abandoned her” of course she said this oblivious to the whole pandemic and most likely having an element of ICU associated confusion due to the sedative effects of medication used for ongoing ventilation.
PTSD affecting hospitalised COVID-19 patients and the front line workers is certainly something we need to be watch out for in the foreseeable future.
Furloughed individuals and those who were at risk of losing their jobs and for those who even lost their monthly income and possibly businesses are not excluded from the Covid-19 mental health crises. Situational depression is a logic aftermath to such situations.
Individuals with pre-existing mental health complaints that were perhaps already receiving therapy may have had their therapy course disrupted and thankfully for some, this was moved to telephone or remote sessions (Hint – download Marpe Wellbeing App lol)
If you are one of those individuals and had to speak to your doctor about increasing your beta-blockers or antidepressants – please be reassured that this was very common thing that GP’s has had to do for their patients.
One that was close to my heart was the elderly population. Not being able to see family members, grandchildren, not being able to attend their social gatherings – their regular Tuesday afternoon Tea with neighbour across the road or Sunday morning church service. They were told to isolate and truly they became isolated. They really took a hit and I truly home things get better for them.
What About The Children?
For children and young adults, this was just a bizarre experience. Difficult to fathom, difficult to comprehend especially for the younger ones. If you have young adults or children, you definitely are a star for weathering through the past few months. My encouragement is to keep reassuring them and if you have not already, really try to have a deep conversation about how they are really doing.
The issues discussed above are only the tip of the iceberg and we have just merely scratched the surface of the bigger problem we are faced with globally. So how can you as an individual help yourself and others? Here are some tips :
1. Do not suffer in silence
If you are feeling low or anxious or just not right, seek medical attention from your general practitioner. Several people have been caught in the assumption that they are bothering their doctors or GP’s are not open to deal with these concerns. Wrong! GP’s were made for this.
2. Prioritise your worries
It has been wisely stated that worrying will not solve your problem. What you can do is list out your worries and label those that are under your control and those that are not within your control. The process of doing this can be quite therapeutic as you put things in perspective. To conclude this exercise you may list out action points or solutions for the worries you have listed to be in your control.
3. Censor what you watch and listen to
It is important to keep yourself updated with the guidelines, rules and what Is going in globally; however let’s face it, news can be quite negative. Now listening to repeated negative news again and again will logically have adverse effect on your mental health. There are several studies that backs up this point. The key thing is to get a balance – watch or read what you need to get informed and then switch to something more positive.
4. Keep connected
Social distancing or shielding does not prevent one from interacting with another. Take advantage of technology if you are shielding and be intentional about keeping in contact with family and friends. Check on them, you just never know what they are going through.
5. Have honest conversations with your young adults and children
They can bottle things a lot and sometimes may find it hard to express how they are feeling. Generalising possible feelings of depression and anxiety and also providing them with a supportive environment may be what they need to open up.
6. Remain positive and hopeful
Easier said than done when face with the current climate. Evidence tells us that being optimistic helps mental wellbeing. Coupled with taking action such as looking for new opportunities and looking into what benefits you are eligible for can also help.
7. Get therapy
Regardless of which ever situation you find yourself, therapy may just help you find better ways to deal with things. You can get this free via your GP or privately.