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Covid-19: Minding Our Mental Health

 

 

 

Living in the Covid-19 era has presented us with many unprecedented challenges, both as individuals and as a society. The toughest of these challenges is perhaps yet to come in the form of the trauma and the impact on people’s mental health. While we cannot say yet what the extent of the damage will be, we can predict that it will be significant.

 

Drawing on research carried out related to previous health emergencies (Sars outbreak, 2003; Influenza pandemic 2009), it has been found that these events cause long term psychological effects in society (Taylor, 2020). In a current Canadian study, Taylor (2020), has found the emergence of ‘Covid Stress Syndrome’ in approximately a quarter of the population. This has distinct features such as intense fears of becoming infected, nightmares, persistent checking of the news and wariness of people from other countries. Living with such heightened stress levels requires our bodies to be constantly on alert and our autonomic nervous system to be in high arousal which can be difficult to live with at best and interrupt healthy functioning at worst.

 

In order to prepare for the potential tsunami of mental health support that society is going to require, our Government needs to recognise what is coming. In the recent 10-year mental health strategy called Sharing the Vision (DOH, 2020), the Government focus on building a system that supports all people in Ireland. This strategy talks about a community-based approach with the introduction of ‘crisis clinics’ as alternatives to A&E for someone presenting in crisis with a mental health issue. It also highlights the importance of a whole-person approach and early intervention aimed to reduce stigma and make services accessible to all. These initiatives will lay the necessary foundations for us to support those in a Covid-19 Ireland and it is essential that the people of Ireland see this strategy put into action.

 

We can support our young people by recognising the value of schools-based counsellors in addition to guidance counsellors and with the inclusion of mental health-based topics on the school curriculum. Teaching our children how to resource themselves in relation to their mental health is of the utmost priority. Early intervention is key in terms of long-term healthy outcomes and recovery. Teaching children about mental health and normalising this will also go a long way in reducing stigma, which in turn should create an increase for those who need help to reach out, without shame.

 

In the workplace, we can provide support by ensuring that all employees have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which offers a limited number of counselling sessions. It is important that employers recognise the value of ‘wellness’ in the workplace and support their workforce to attend to their need for support without stigma.

 

While we wait for the systems to align and for all of the above to take shape, we can take some control in our own, individual way too.

  • Tuning in to ourselves, our needs, our fears and our worries is a good first step. When we have identified, and in some cases accepted, that we are struggling in some way we can then assess the necessary next step to take.
  • Be compassionate towards yourself and try not to compare to others. Speak to yourself in the same way you would speak to a friend who was struggling. Release yourself from ‘shoulds’ ‘buts’ and ‘if onlys’. It is acceptable and expected to struggle at this time.
  • Approach others with empathy. Everyone is struggling in their own way. Try to suspend your judgements, these judgements extend to yourself also.
  • Take stock and introduce some self-care into your life. What would make life meaningful and more manageable for you right now? This does not have to be a big gesture.
  • Increase connection. Connectivity and relationship are two of the most important ingredients in mental health support. Reach out when you are low, reach out when times are hard. Can you also reach out to show support when you recognise that others are struggling too? Don’t be afraid to look for professional support. Counselling can be an invaluable and empowering support mechanism. The IACP have a comprehensive list of qualified professionals available for counselling, online and in person, which can be accessed through their website www.iacp.ie

 

 

References:

Department of Health. (2020). Sharing the vision. A mental health policy for everyone. https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/2e46f-sharing-the-vision-a-mental-health-policy-for-everyone/

 

Taylor, S. (2020). For the generation shaped by coronavirus, life may never fully return to normal. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/07/life-never-return-normal-coronavirus-shape-generation

 

Author: Jade Lawless C. Psychol. PsSI, MIACP 

Executive Board Member IACP 

Head of Counselling and Psychotherapy PCI College 

Director of Psychology Harmony Residential Care. 

 

 





 

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