Everyone is talking about the effects of COVID-19, losing jobs, staying at home, isolation and everyone is blaming someone. The fact is, it really doesn’t matter at this point who is to blame, we all have to play our part in resolving the problem when it comes to mental health.
That aside, I want to talk today about the silent misery behind this pandemic. There is a group of people who are suffering in relative silence. These are the people dealing with mental health issues.
Now these people may not have had mental health issues in the past, it may have crept up on them during these trying times.
There are a group of people who are more at risk than others, so let’s have a look at these people first:
- Those people who have pre-existing mental health problems. These people are at a higher risk of their issues being exacerbated because of lockdown.
- Health care workers – Those genuine people who face daily the reality of COVID-19, the illness, death and dying that they face daily and the constant concern of infection themselves.
- People involuntarily placed in quarantine – This restriction on behaviours and social interaction can have negative effects long-term. Issues can include PTSD symptoms, depression and anxiety
- Unemployed people – Recent unemployment due to COVID-19 has placed a great strain on families and individuals across Australia. Job insecurity is associated with stress, financial strain and depression and anxiety.
For more information on at risk groups go to: Black Dog Institute. “Mental Health Ramifications of COVID-19: The Australian context.” Web 04 Aug 2020. https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20200319_covid19-evidence-and-reccomendations.pdf.
I would like to highlight what I see as a group of people who are at a very high risk of mental health issues at the moment.
These are the people that live alone.
Living alone brings out the isolation even further. Yes, I know that people can stay in contact via zoom or other meeting groups, they can call friends and family or they can join online groups and forums but is this enough or does it increase the problems? In many cases this type of contact only highlights the fact that they are alone.
I have had chats with many people who live alone and their comments have included comments such as, “all this technology is great but it’s the physical touch I miss the most”. There is not a soul on earth who can give them a hug. These people are at great risk of being affected mentally.
In most cases, counselling is online now. Rarely are counsellors face-to-face at this time and Medical professionals are using telehealth, unless there is a need for injury management.
This isolation is creating a group of people who are ‘TOUCH STARVED’.
Humans are social beings, we are hard wired to be touched, we NEED physical touch! This touch is any physical touch including:
- Pat on the back
- Shaking hands
- Holding hands
- Foot rubs
Touch releases oxytocin. Think about it, if you are stressed how good does a neck massage feel? If you are crying, how great is a hug? Touch tackles the issue of loneliness. It reduces the feelings of isolation.
Things that can help at the moment are things like cuddling and animal or having a soak in a hot bath.
Whilst there is little we can do to help people who live alone at the moment due to restrictions, we can check up on them. Call them, really listen to them. Make sure when you call, you have time to listen.
Remember, these people are in the high-risk group for mental health problems during this isolation period.
For more information on touch starvation go to: Health Line. “What Does It Mean to Be Touch Starved?” Web 04 Aug 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/touch-starved#short-term-solutions
Where can you get help from?
If you need help with mental health issues or you know someone who could benefit from help there are many places with experienced people who can advise you on what to do.
SANE Australia www.sane.org Mental health-related information, tips, links and online help.
Anxiety Recovery Centre www.arcvic.com.au Information about anxiety disorders, their management and links.
Black Dog Institute www.blackdoginstitute.org.au Information on depression (including during and after pregnancy) and Bipolar Disorder – specifically causes, treatments, symptoms, getting help and current research findings.
Lifeline www.lifeline.org.au Links and a search facility that directs you to your local Lifeline centre.
Harm Reduction Victoria http://hrvic.org.au/ HRVic aims to educate, inform, support and advocate on behalf of Victorian people who use drugs and their friends and allies.
Beyond Blue https://www.beyondblue.org.au/ beyondblue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
Written by Donna Bowman
Managing Director – EYF Online PD
and Contributing Published Author
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