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Mental health and the Coronavirus crisis

Concerned about Coronavirus (COVID-19)? You’re far from alone.

It is dominating debate and discussion – the sole talking point, and the subject on everybody’s lips. On news bulletins. On social media. In the school playground.

This seems certain to be the case for days, weeks and months to come.

These are troubling times that are unsettling for us all.

For those experiencing mental health difficulties and anxieties already, such issues are intensified.

When it comes to children and young people, the impact should not be underestimated.

The recommended measures that pertain to protecting our physical health have been made clear.

Yet in mental health terms, less guidance has been given.

For the vulnerable, such things are just as important.

The good news? There are some simple steps that can help at testing times such as these.

What steps can I take to protect my mental health during the coronavirus crisis?

Limit exposure to Coronavirus coverage: It’s important to remain informed and aware, but too much time spent monitoring the media could be detrimental. Rather than trying to read/watch it all, set a specific time to check in and catch up on the latest, and focus on something else in between.

Give social media a miss: Social media isn’t always helpful at such times, so don’t spend too long scrolling through Twitter timelines or focusing on your Facebook feed. Mute content that might be triggering, and avoid conversations and posts that could cause distress or anxiety.

Stick to trusted sources: There’s much misinformation around, so think about the content and coverage that you’re exposing yourself to. Seeking the latest updates or advice on coronavirus? Government and NHS platforms and accounts are a good place to start.

Don’t become too isolated: This might sound like a contradiction given the advice to avoid others. But even if you are in self-isolation, you can still maintain contact. Phone a friend or make a video call, and remember always, you’re not alone in all this.

Don’t await the worst: No-one knows what’s going to happen at this point, but sitting around and fearing the worst isn’t going to help. Find something to do to take your mind off it. Read a book, tackle a puzzle or go for a walk if you’re able. You’ll feel much better as a result.

How should I handle Coronavirus as a parent?

Talk to children about Covid-19: Children look to adults for comfort and reassurance at such times and it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. You don’t need to have all the answers. Just being open and honest will help children to understand and to cope. An outwardly calm manner will help to give children confidence.

Don’t ignore or avoid the subject: Young people and children are perceptive, and they’ll be aware of what’s going on whether you discuss it at home or not. It’s better to talk it through in measured and reasoned terms rather than letting them make judgements based upon playground gossip, social media and newspaper headlines.

Reassure them that all will be well: Underline that the likelihood of becoming ill is slim – and that, should the worst happen, you’ll be there to take care and look after them. Children might be concerned that you’ll fall ill, so reassure them that measures are in place to deal with all eventualities.

Provide practical tips and retain routines: Don’t overdo it, but encourage children to maintain good habits and offer help and advice when it comes to hand washing and other such things. Stick to regular routines and, as difficult as it might be, aim to keep life as normal as possible.

Distract them: Keep children occupied and provide positive activities and experiences to help stop their minds from wandering. Limit screen time, social media and exposure to the news, and spend more time together. Think about hobbies and interests. This could be the perfect time to do something different.

These are simple steps, but measures such as these can make a big difference to all concerned.

Here at CPUK, we’re implementing safeguards to enable us to continue to support patients old and new, and as always, we’re on hand to offer help, advice and assistance, wherever possible, online too.

Please consider our advice, keep children safe and don’t forget to look after yourself too.

These are troubling times, but you’re far from alone.

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