This is a pandemic that may claim lives in more ways than one.
Globally we are in crisis. Dealing with a situation we have never experienced before and couldn’t predict. coronavirus has taken hold and ravaged the world. It is an illness that doctors and scientists are still figuring out.
This is what we know so far: it is similar to the flu, with common symptoms like a persistent cough and temperature. When Covid-19 was first discovered, researchers found out it came from a food source. Since that time, it has taken over 68,000 lives worldwide, with this number growing everyday. In the UK alone, we have 4,934 deaths so far. Fear has become the emotion of the time and who knows when we will all get some semblance of normality.
At the moment we are hearing rumours about the coronavirus and the panic it has engendered. It is an uncertain time but one thing’s for sure, life has become significantly worse for those who find things difficult in ‘normal times’.
UK Mental Health Overview
It is no longer acceptable to brush our problems under the carpet. Mental health has become the new buzzword, and it is encouraged to discuss it.
Traditionally, we are a country that powers through, we get up and we go to work, whatever the situation. Allowing ourselves less time to breath and to create valuable headspace. The 21st century promotes a ‘have it all’ lifestyle and exposes us to standards we can’t keep.
Since 2013, 8.2 million people have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in the UK. We don’t currently know what impact the coronavirus has had on these numbers.
Help for OCD sufferers
Obsessive compulsive disorder, (OCD) is a common mental health condition that causes a person to exhibit obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours. It is an illness that causes great distress and interferes with daily life. Men, women and children can all be affected.
The constant need to wash your hands is often associated with OCD. At the moment, we are encouraged to do this frequently in order to eliminate coronavirus bacteria. But how is this preventative government measure affecting individuals with OCD?
An expert from the Priory group has urged OCD sufferers to formulate a plan that will support them during the outbreak. They want to help patients tackle their fear and stay in control. The worry is that:
‘News of an infectious disease may cause concern for many people, but someone with OCD may become intensely fearful of being affected by the pathogen’.
Alcohol Consumption as a coping strategy
In recent weeks, Britain has been stocking up on essentials in an effort to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic. Similarly to toilet rolls and tinned food, most shelves of alcohol have been emptied in Supermarkets. According to research conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, British adults are drinking an average of 9.7 litres of alcohol a year. That equates to 108 bottles of wine! It is well-known that alcohol is a depressant that relaxes the nervous system, but with consumption this high it’s scary to think we could be drinking more in isolation and the effect of this on our mental and physical health.
An expert from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that alcohol is an ‘unhelpful coping strategy’. The UN agency has acknowledged the misuse of drugs and alcohol in times of crisis. This comes as a new survey suggests that the pandemic has caused 2/3 adults in the UK to feel anxious and worried. Dr Aiysha Malik from WHO thinks it’s vitally important that drug and alcohol services remain accessible during the lockdown, arguing that using substances to cope ‘can make things worse’.
Advice from the Deputy Medical Officer
Talking during the coronavirus press conference the deputy chief medical officer recognised that mental health is a concern. Jenny Harries said we need to be looking after our minds and bodies. Adding:
‘that particularly applies to our very high risk, vulnerable group we have asked to almost take themselves out of society for 12 weeks. That’s a really big ask. And it’s why in the letters that have gone out to them, there are specific links and suggestions around mental health and mental health welfare, linking with Every Mind Matters. All sorts of links to do that’.
She continued with a more positive tone, suggesting that being at home will give us and our families more free time to get ‘super fit’ — provided we can get past our mental health issues.
How to combat anxiety whilst in isolation
Mental health charity, Mind have put together some useful advice for individuals coping with being at home. They suggest the following;
- Eat well and stay hydrated
- Keep taking medication
- Continue accessing treatment and support where possible
- Take care of your immediate environment
- Find ways to work or study at home
- Care services and support links are still available from local authorities
Wherever possible, people are advised to stay stimulated and keep in contact with others. If you’re feeling anxious, make sure to get some fresh air and keep to a routine. Stay relaxed and be creative with your time. Never let yourself feel trapped, no matter how desperate things seem. Talk to someone who’ll listen. It’s also important to stay informed with new developments, but take care when listening to the news. Sometimes it’s more helpful to get some headspace from the stream of information and misinformation.
Where does this leave us?
Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll be in lockdown for the foreseeable future. This has in no way been an easy transition. We are still trying to make the best of things. But as a country we will bounce back. We are resilient. And we will get through this together, one individual at a time.