Let’s talk about how strange, confusing and stressful this pandemic has been for people. Because we probably don’t talk about it enough. Social distancing, the world economy at a standstill a rising global death toll. None of it is normal. a rising global death toll. None of it is normal. There’s no way to come out of this normal.
At least not having something affecting your psyche. We put a call out to our viewers to find out how you’re feeling. Some of us are bored, tired, grateful, productive paranoid, inspired or just plain done with it. The COVID-19 virus is not only attacking our physical health is also increasing psychological suffering. And while we worry about keeping the virus away and staying physically fit how do we protect our mental health too? In some parts of the world lockdowns have stretched on for weeks even months. There’s talk of more down the road. And in countries where restrictions are being lifted we’re still keeping our distance and we’re not socialising the way we used to. The consensus is all of that is having an effect on us and our mental health. You’ve probably heard that human beings are considered social animals. Well that’s based on science. Humans are one of the most vulnerable species at birth and need to rely on others for survival. Our brains have adapted to having others as our baseline. And so when this lack of proximity to trusted others is absent then it puts us in a heightened state of alert. Essentially our brains are hardwired to feel safe knowing we can turn to others if we need to. So whenever we feel lonely the fight or flight area in our brain releases stress hormones like adrenaline into our nervous system. And if we stay in that state of alert for a long time it starts having a physical effect on our body. Like on our digestive and immune systems. The risk of heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes can also go up. Some studies show that loneliness can even shorten your life. What we found was that loneliness was associated with a 26% increase risk for earlier death. Social isolation at a 29%, and living alone a 32%. But it’s not just isolation that’s stressing out our brains and bodies. It’s everything. The number of coronavirus cases globally has crossed 4 million. All anyone talks about is the pandemic. We’re overwhelmed by constant news updates some of them true and some of them false. And that information overload can cause anxiety. For some of us we have this belief that we can try to control this anxiety by excessively worrying about it consuming more and more information and that might actually feed into the anxiety. But most things seem to be out of our control. And that uncertainty is wearing people down. Fear and anxiety, stress. These are all incredibly normal responses to this situation. Anxiety is a natural reaction to something that is uncertain anyway. And this pandemic is the most uncertain time that any of us have lived through. Maybe you’re having trouble sleeping or you just feel a bit weird. Almost like it’s Groundhog Day. I’m reliving the same day over and over. You might be fine one day and feel totally over it the next. A lot depends on your experience of this pandemic. You might be dealing with trauma after recovering from the virus. Maybe you’ve lost someone. Maybe you’ve lost your job. Some people were struggling to put food on the table even before the lockdown. Or maybe you’ve had to upend your work or school routine. There’s already evidence that young adults and children are feeling it. “An Oxford University study found that 1 in 5 children are now afraid to leave their homes.” And then there are those with preexisting mental health issues like people with diagnosed depression who might feel particularly vulnerable right now. It’s also elderly people terrified about contracting the virus. And it’s healthcare workers dealing with the sick and being afraid of getting sick themselves. Honestly guys I felt like I was working in a warzone. For me to say I don’t feel fear going into a room or anxiety, that my heart doesn’t start pounding and my stomach doesn’t turn, is a lie. Mental health experts say an entire generation of medical workers will likely suffer prolonged psychological effects from working through this pandemic. It’s those prolonged effects that mental health specialists are worried about. Because we just don’t know when we’ll see the back of this pandemic. Yes some countries are starting to lift the lockdowns. But life isn’t exactly going back to normal. And there’s no guarantee that the number of cases won’t spike again. The virus is going to stay for a while. It’s going to stay for a few years. Even if after we get the vaccine the vaccine will not eradicate the virus. The vaccine will decrease the transmission rate. This virus basically can go away but it goes back like seasonal flu. That means that whatever we’re feeling now could last a while. After the SARS epidemic in 2003 people still showed what’s called “avoidance behavior”. A study found that about one-fifth of people were avoiding public spaces weeks later. One-quarter avoided crowded and enclosed places. And just over half still avoided people who coughed or sneezed. I do worry that there will be continued lingering fear around being close to others. There are also concerns about other ways people might respond. A report in the Lancet medical journal says there are suggestions that the number of deaths by suicide will rise. In Australia, for instance, calls to this helpline have gone up by 40% since the pandemic began. But there’s not a lot of data yet linking suicide rates to COVID-19. Specialists we’ve spoken to say that first of all people who decide to take their own life do it for several reasons — not just one. That an increase in calls to support lines doesn’t necessarily indicate an increase in suicidal actions. And that more people reaching out might actually be a good thing. In fact some researchers say people who’ve already sought mental health treatment are in a better position to cope. They’re actually better prepared for this isolation in pandemic because of coping mechanisms and resilience measures that they’ve learned in the past already. There’s actually a lot of research being done to find out what positive effects might come from this pandemic. The sense of solidarity, the sense of togetherness that may come from this. There may be some comfort in knowing that others are experiencing something similar. There may be the potential positive effects of
reducing stigma around this. So greater willingness to talk about it. So greater willingness to talk about it. Seeing mental health and emotional well-being
as a natural part of all of our lives. So anything that’s more able to break the stigma is good from our side. So here are a few things we can do to keep our mental health in check. Really good to find ways to kind of have a little project task or little ways to achieve something throughout the day. Pick up a phone and check in on family members friends, neighbors. The best thing that you can do is inform yourself with legitimate sources. The easiest way to do that is to look to the World Health Organization. Facts minimise fear. Whatever you’re feeling you’re definitely not the only one. We’re all affected by it. And if you’re really struggling it’s ok to ask for help. “The World Health Organization has an online campaign called HealthyAtHome that has lots of advice. Depending on where you live you can also get help online or over the phone. And if you’re watching on Youtube we’ll leave some links below this video. See you next week.”