Autumn 2020 issue
Est. Reading: 3 minutes

COVID 19 – How Are You Doing?

Lockdown and limited social contact is taking its toll on people's physical and mental wellbeing. With many worried about their jobs, debt, housing, relationships, and their own health and the health of loved ones the stress can be overwhelming and many may feel unable to cope or see a way forward.

In this blog, Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Chloe Beale, Suicide Prevention Lead for the Trust, reflects on the role of health care workers, and our role as colleagues, friends, and family, in looking out for each other and making sure people get help when they need it.

Whilst the possibility of a vaccine may be giving us some hope, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the future.

People who use mental health services have found that the pandemic has taken away vital face to face support, both within health care settings and through closure of community activities which are so important to wellbeing. I am certainly hearing from many patients, colleagues and friends about the adverse effects of isolation.

When so much of the world’s focus is on controlling the virus, reducing transmission and preventing physical illness, we can forget that, for many people, there are consequences more frightening than infection: domestic abuse, poverty, homelessness, isolation to name a few. Recently published research shows that - so far - suicide rates have not risen in lockdown. This is good news and a welcome rebuttal to the false stories that circulate on social media from time to time.

However, this doesn’t mean that mental health is not impacted or will not continue to be impacted by the pandemic. Statistics don’t tell individual stories.

As clinicians, we should all be in the habit of asking patients and carers specifically how the pandemic and lockdown has impacted them personally. Everyone is affected in different ways, so it’s important to try to understand individual circumstances.

It’s difficult when we know we don’t have all the solutions, but we must take time to understand what support people need. You don’t necessarily have to try and fix everything, but ask, listen, acknowledge, validate.

Looking After Yourself

We all need to look after ourselves as well as others. We are all tired. We have been through a summer of lockdown already and we don’t know how long it’s going to last this time. It’s winter and we have the usual seasonal pressures to contend with on top of the pandemic.

A lot of us have not seen family abroad or even in the UK for many months. There is a distinct lack of free pizza and clapping for NHS workers this time around. Tempers may become frayed. Political events may add to the feelings of uncertainty and discord.

You might be finding your usual coping strategies less effective, or be feeling the lack of those things that usually get you through difficult times. Make sure you are taking regular leave even if there is nowhere to go. Take breaks and remind your colleagues to do the same.

Make the effort to ask how people are and to show your appreciation. Lockdown doesn’t mean you have to get fitter, make sourdough or learn to play the piano; just do what you need to do to get through this.

Ask How are you? How are you doing?

Encouraging people to seek help when they are struggling is important, but it’s not an easy thing to do, and many struggles are hidden. Maybe we shouldn’t always wait for people to ask for help; whether service users, colleagues or friends, let’s remember to check in and ask people how they are and how lockdown is affecting them.

It might make a real difference to someone.

Getting Help and Support

If you are really struggling at the moment, find someone to talk to: a friend, a family member, a colleague. Contact your GP or healthcare professional for further help. 

You can refer yourself to one of our Talking Therapies services for help with life issues that have come to a head during the pandemic: Talking-Therapies-Here-to-Help-During-Lockdown

You can get help in an Emergency here

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