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Living in challenging times

These are challenging times for many. 

Children and young people with pre-existing mental health issues, are brought into sharp focus this week, following new research from YoungMinds.

Having surveyed more than 2,000 under-25s with a mental health history, the charity’s findings are striking.

The picture painted underlines that COVID-19 isn’t just affecting our bodies. 

Increased anxiety, panic attacks, sleep problems and repeated urges to self-harm – these are some of the issues that are being reported as school closures, exam cancellations, routine changes and fears about the future come into focus for the UK’s youth.

Emma Thomas, YoungMinds’ Chief Executive, described the situation as a ‘human tragedy that will continue to alter the lives of everyone in society.’

“The results of this survey show just how big an impact this has had and will continue to have on the mental health of young people,” she added.

Here at CPUK, we’re in full agreement.

In previous posts on our blog, we’ve asked (and answered) questions including what steps can I take to protect my mental health during the coronavirus crisis, how should I handle coronavirus as a parent, and how should I tackle home schooling during COVID-19?  See our news page here.

Our approach to seeing our patients has been amended to enable us to continue to provide a safe, effective and supportive mental health service during these difficult times. Read our Coronavirus update here.

It’s our hope that offering such guidance and advice – and putting practical steps into practice – can help those working to cope with these exceptional circumstances.

YoungMinds’ figures underline the size of the challenge and emphasise that, in addition to COVID-19’s physical symptoms, this too is a coronavirus consequence that must be taken seriously.

From 2,111 under-25s (significantly all with a prior mental health history) surveyed between March 20th and 25th (after UK school closures had been implemented), 83% said the coronavirus crisis had made their mental health ‘worse’; 51% said their mental health, as a direct consequence, was ‘a bit worse; 32% said it was ‘much worse’.

This is a self reported survey, of young people with pre-existing mental health difficulties. Scientifically it is rather “qualitative” rather than “quantitative”.

From those who had been accessing mental health support prior to the coronavirus ‘lockdown’, 74% reported still being able to. Yet the remaining 26% said help was no longer available to them – due to school closures, lost access to peer support or services not being available online or via telephone. Some said online or phone services did not meet their needs, or that such methods made them feel uncomfortable or concerned about their confidentiality. 

Feeling isolated and alone, it’s no surprise that, in such times, mental health issues are escalating.

Here at CPUK, we’re taking such things into account and attempting to tailor our services accordingly. Yet the YoungMinds research has put the problem’s scale into perspective and highlighted a need to ensure that those in need during these challenging times do not fall through the ever-growing cracks.

Those experiencing OCD and other associated issues. Those prone to eating difficulties. 

Those reliant on routines. Those who have worked so hard for exams that will never take place.

For young people such as these, the impact of COVID-19 is very relevant.

For young people such as these, these are challenging times indeed.

What are our top tips to aid mental health during the coronavirus crisis?

Talk about your feelings. Get the facts. Don’t overexpose yourself to the news, but do understand what you can do to avoid issues and improve a difficult situation. Find things that make you feel calm. Use video/phone calls to remain connected with friends and family, and don’t become too isolated. Plan your time and maintain routines (in particular getting up in the morning, and bed and mealtimes). Be sure to eat healthy foods, hydrate, exercise and remain active. Get outside. Get some daylight and sunshine. Spring is coming. Think about hobbies and interests. Trust us on this. It all helps.

Please do remember that, no matter what might be going on out there, you’re not alone.

We’re all in this together.

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