Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Mental health in COVID times

Shire Matters with Mark Speakman: Mental health in COVID times

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a seismic effect on our lives. Many of us feel lonely or frightened. Many of us are stressed by widespread and sometimes devastating changes - at home, in the workplace, in our business, at school, or in our social lives.

People with an existing mental health condition or anxiety disorder are especially vulnerable to psychological distress during this period of sustained isolation.

We need to do everything we reasonably can to halt the spread of this cruel virus. But at the same time, we must care for ourselves and others.

Mental health organisations like Beyond Blue and Lifeline recommend a number of strategies to alleviate lockdown stress.

You could, for example, limit your exposure to negative news - including feeds on social media. Information saturation is both a blessing and a curse of the contemporary age. There's a mind-boggling volume of COVID-19 information (sadly, of varying credibility) at our disposal. While it's important to get the information (from reliable sources) you and your family need to live safely, constantly reading about the pandemic can be quite distressing. It pays, now and then, to take a break and watch or read something a bit more uplifting.

Public health orders require us to maintain physical distance from others, but there's no reason why we shouldn't stay connected to each other. Speak to friends and family on the phone or better still on FaceTime or other video, organise a virtual trivia night, or share kind messages on your social media channels. Small gestures like these can go a long way to helping reduce stress and loneliness.

Manage your wellbeing. Establish a routine. Exercise outdoors. And whenever you can, make time for things you enjoy. Setting goals and enjoying a variety of activities helps to maintain our personal motivation and happiness, so that we're best equipped to support the people we love.

Our citizens have shown great strength and resilience these past weeks. Let's mobilise that spirit as we extend kindness and care to those who need it most.

If you're experiencing emotional distress, help is at hand. Lifeline (13 11 14) and Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) offer 24/7 telephone support.

Other resources like Beyond Blue and the NSW Mental Health Line can be accessed on the NSW Government's COVID-19 portal at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/health-and-wellbeing/your-mental-wellbeing