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Monday Apr 06 2020
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Addressing mental health and wellbeing needs during a lockdown

Photo: File

No doubt, today we are witnessing an unprecedented situation, the likes of which we have never seen before.

Dark clouds of uncertainty and fear are everywhere. People are locked up in their homes and are unable to do the things that they used to do. Children’s schools are closed and adults are forced to work virtually.

Social gatherings are no longer permitted and more and more people are now restricted to their homes. During the lockdown, people are spending a large chunk of their day online, reading about the novel and deadly coronavirus.

Images, appearing from countries most affected by the virus, are heartbreaking. Coffins are lined up in Italy, but there are no mourners. Every day the death toll and number of infected spikes, and doctors sound alarm bells about overwhelmed healthcare systems.

All these combined can have a serious impact on one’s mental health, especially on those who are already vulnerable and have an history of mental illness.

People from around the world have reported feelings of boredom, frustration, restlessness, fear and anger. Although there is not much data available, we’ve started hearing news from reliable sources of an increase in domestic violence. And this, unfortunately, is the beginning of the lockdown. We don’t know as yet how long the social distancing will continue or when life will return to normal.

Now, if the lockdown is prolonged, to several more weeks or months, the situation could rapidly become dire, especially if we do not adapt to this new lifestyle of working and studying from home.

To prevent that from happening, what we need today is a new daily routine, which can reset our behavior at home.

We recommend setting a realistic timetable and then following it. Fix a time for when you will go to bed and when you will wake up. And please eat healthy and exercise.

Also, take up a new hobby, such as cooking, painting ect. Read more, fiction or even non-fiction.

We also suggest you take this time to interact with your family. This will not only create a strong family bond and rebuild your relationships, but it will also help you overcome the feeling of boredom and frustration.

Talk to your children, listen to them and explain why the lockdown is imposed. Your young ones will have a lot of questions in these extraordinary times and only you can help them get through this.

Moreover, to deal with loneliness, especially if you are away from family members, connect with people across the world using voice and video calling apps such as Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime, to create a network of support. However, we would recommend that the use of social media be limited only to make positive and lighthearted conversations.

As far as your environment is concerned, it has an impact on your mental health, and by adopting small changes such as allowing plenty of natural light, and spending your day off of your bed can enlighten your mood.

We hope the above measures will help you overcome the challenges of isolation.

We wish you all best of luck and health in the days to come and hope that you will all stay safe at home and follow the advice to make the best use of this time.

Dr Rehan Ahmed Khan is a consultant psychiatrist in the UK and Pakistan. Dr Abu Kamran Pasha is a consultant physician.