This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme is Kindness which is incredibly important in these strange and unusual times which are now impacting on many people’s lives around the world – none the least on our mental health. From across the world and in our own country we are seeing compassion and kindness on many levels, the volunteers in local hubs delivering food to the vulnerable, the acknowledgement of the NHS and emergency services, the doorstep cake drop from a neighbour – all acts of kindness that are helping us somewhat to get through.
Mental health and emotional wellbeing has in recent years been spoken about much more openly, recognised by the medical profession, and being recognised and acknowledged by employers, and schools, etc as an illness that can impact our personal and working lives. Sadly the current pandemic is doing just that.
Around the world many people’s lives have changed in how we work and live due to a pandemic caused by an invisible enemy – a new or ‘novel’ coronavirus, known as SARS-CoV-2 which causes the severe respiratory disease now known as COVID-19. This particular coronavirus is just one of many of coronaviruses that cause illness in animals in humans. In humans, the vast majority only cause mild illness and upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold but can develop into pneumonia. Some are more severe such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in 2003 and the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) recognised in Saudi Arabia in 2012. This one has rapidly spread round the world and was declared as a pandemic on 12th March 2020.
Countries around the world restricted their populations movement, ordering ‘lockdown’ or ‘stay in place’ orders, embedded in law. Restrictions varied from country to country. Some locked down early prior to any outbreaks getting too big a foothold, others delayed. Only essential travel was allowed for weekly food, and work, if you could not work from home, and a short period of exercise from home – if you were lucky to be in a country that allowed leaving the house for exercise. This new way of living has impacted many. Those essential workers, the NHS staff, the carers, the shop workers, the posties, the bin men, etc. all still have to go to work, knowing they risk contracting the virus and bringing it home to their family, let alone, those in the NHS who are dealing with the tragic number of deaths, those of us trying to work from home, the school pupils, the students, the teachers, those who have been furloughed, those who have lost their jobs, lost family and friends to the disease… everything is different it impacts us all whether we have underlying mental health issues or not. Anxiety, Loneliness, sadness, loss (of loved ones, and a normal way of life), fear, insomnia & other sleep issues, anger, overeating, under eating, lack of motivation, heightened emotions, uncertainty, etc. are experienced by many.
Some reassuring points I personally took away from a recent webinar Covid-19: Safefty Tips for Reopening your Library by Prof. Dipesh Navsana (University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health) – this is worth a listen to – particularly the first half giving reassuring and clear facts about COVID-19:
Uncertainty – roll with it!
No human activity of any kind is 100% safe
Looking for information about COVID-19 – use well-vetted reputable sources (eg. NHS, WHO). Avoid social media as sources of info – which are often inaccurate, sensationalised, and fear mongering.
Be caring and compassionate – to others, and importantly to yourselves!
Suggestions to help yourself – which have been shown to help
- Get outside, appreciate what’s around you. Take time to just stop and listen.
- Hobbies – crafts, drawing, painting, knitting, crochet, etc
- Connect with people – Facetime, Whatsapp, videoconferencing
- Help other people in your household
- Set yourself goals or challenges – don’t have to be big ones, whether it is to carry out an act of kindness (eg. make a cuppa for a family member),
- Interact with your animals
- Baking & cooking
- Create a routine – including sensible bed times and get up at same time every day
- Accept what you can’t change
Remember – talk to people. Seek help, whether it is from your GP, a counsellor, a line manager, a guidance teacher – Reach out for help if you need it!