We discuss how the pandemic can affect your mental health, why your mental health is so important right now, and what you can do to care for your mental wellbeing during these difficult times.
How outbreaks affect mental health
The pandemic has affected our lives in unprecedented ways, bringing many of us feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
You might be worried about protecting yourself or your loved ones from the virus, stressed about juggling working from home and looking after your kids, concerned about support and treatment for other health issues, frustrated by normal social and community activities being cancelled, worried about how the pandemic will affect you financially, or just feeling socially isolated and cooped up for far too long.
It all adds up to a big strain on mental wellbeing for even the most resilient among us.
What does research tell us about mental health during disease outbreaks?
Studies have shown that during the MERS outbreak, people suffered from increased anxiety after two weeks of isolation and the effects lasted for several months, while the SARS epidemic led to an increase in suicide rates in Hong Kong, one of the worst affected areas.
We are already seeing the impacts of COVID on mental health. A study from China reported that 70% of people described symptoms of psychological distress during the outbreak.
Early data from the UK also suggests that people are suffering from increased levels of anxiety due to the coronavirus pandemic, with millions feeling panicked, afraid and unprepared.
Why is it so important to support your mental health right now?
"The concern is that the longer these levels of mental health problems continue, the worse they become for many people. Among the issues we will need to monitor are impacts on levels of trauma, suicidal thoughts, and mental health vulnerability,” says Mental Health Foundation Director of Research Dr. Antonis Kousoulis.
“That is why it is incredibly important that we act now. We are not powerless. There are many things we can do, individually and collectively, to tackle and prevent mental health problems, with much help and advice available.”
You might think that your mental health isn't important right now when many people are simply focused on surviving. But if we are going to return to normal life and reconstruct society post-coronavirus, we all need to be mentally healthy.
“Protecting our mental health is going to be central to us coping with and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic - with the psychological and social impacts likely to outlast the physical symptoms of the virus,” says Mental Health Foundation Chief Executive, Mark Rowland.
Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 is all about kindness
Acts of kindness have a unique ability to make us feel connected to the people around us, which we all need right now. Research has shown that compassion and mental health are deeply connected, and acts of kindness can enhance our sense of community and solidarity.
Kindness towards ourselves and others might be the perfect antidote for pandemic-related anxiety. But it may also give us a better world to return to when the outbreak is over.
Mark Rowland says, “We must seize this time to shape a society that tips the balance in favour of good mental health, for all of us, but especially for those who are most vulnerable."
The rundown on COVID, kindness and mental health
- Feelings of anxiety are common during a pandemic, so if you are struggling right now, you aren't alone - millions of people around the world are dealing with difficult feelings right now
- We need to actively look after our mental health during stressful times like this
- Mental wellness is essential for returning to our lives and rebuilding society, so we need to take steps to stay healthy
- Focusing on compassion and kindness will help to improve our personal mental health and build a better world for everyone
To find out more about how you can spread kindness for Mental Health Awareness, visit the Mental Health Foundation website. And check out our previous post with five top tips for reducing feelings of anxiety during the pandemic.
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