One of the most challenging mental health aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic is the “continuing uncertainty” and “lack of control”, a psychologist has said.
As some of the usual coping mechanisms are removed during the second lockdown in England, clinical psychologist Dr Catherine Huckle urged people to remember the “basics of mental health”.
These include: sleep, exercise, social connections, eating well and balancing time between activities that give a sense of achievement and activities that are for fun or relaxation.
Dr Huckle, from the University of Surrey, said: “As we enter another period of lockdown, one of the most challenging elements is the continuing uncertainty we are all having to live with and the lack of control we have over certain elements of our lives.
“Some of the things that protect our mental health are removed, such as meeting friends or taking part in sports.
“To keep ourselves well in the next few weeks, it is helpful to keep in mind the basics of mental health and to be creative so that these can still be met.
“These are sleep, exercise, social connections, eating well and balancing our time between activities that give a sense of achievement – the ‘to-dos’ – and activities that are purely for fun or relaxation.
“It is also helpful to manage the information we are exposed to – we don’t need 24-hour news updates, once a day (or even less) is enough and a constant flow of information can keep our threat system activated and increase our anxiety.
“Lastly, Covid is an exercise in practising uncertainty – we don’t know what will happen, we can focus on one day at a time and ‘this too shall pass’.”
A number of experts have raised concerns about the mental health of the nation as it braces for its second national lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
After the announcement of lockdown on Saturday, Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, said: “We are facing the greatest test of our mental health this year.
“Just last week, Mind saw the largest increase in calls to our Infoline.
“There is an urgent need for a winter mental health support package now from the Government.
“This must include access to face-to-face and online mental health services for those who need it.
“And this time round, we need to pay particular attention to people with serious mental health problems at risk of imminent crisis, as well as the wider challenges of the pandemic on the general public’s mental health.
“Far too many people aren’t getting the support they need, resulting in increased strain on the NHS and more people ending up in crisis.
“The Government has to learn from mistakes in the first wave, making sure people can get help early on.
“During the first wave, we saw mental health bed capacity being sacrificed to ease pressure on other parts of the system, but this cannot happen again; demand for these beds is increasing and will only continue to do so as we head into winter.
“As well as healthcare, we know wider issues of the pandemic, such as debt, housing and employment, have had a huge impact on people’s mental health.
“We’re concerned many people will fall through the gaps during a second lockdown – to prevent this, alternative support must be made available, such as keeping the increased rate of Universal Credit.”
Last week, mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness said there was a “worrying” surge in the number of people seeking advice for self-harm and how to support someone experiencing suicidal thoughts.
The charity warned there is a looming mental health crisis as it urged people to seek support if they are struggling.
It comes after the charity saw significant rises in the number of people seeking help from its advice pages online.
It said that in the six months after lockdown, more than 2.3 million people visited rethink.org for advice and information – including significant increases in the numbers seeking help for anxiety disorders, advice about how to support someone experiencing suicidal thoughts and advice and information about self-harm.
The charity said demand for advice and information doubled compared with the six months prior to lockdown.
– Rethink Mental Illness’s support pages are available via rethink.org, Mind has specific coronavirus pages at mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus and Samaritans can be contacted 24 hours a day by calling 116 123.