• Soumik Saha

Covid has had ‘unprecedented’ impact on lives of vulnerable

UNEMPLOYMENT, financial instability, disruption to education, social isolation and sudden loss of loved ones, have all become increasingly common since the pandemic.

Experts say that many of these are risk factors for mental health conditions and behavioural problems such as depression and substance use disorders.

Virendra, a community psychiatric nurse who specializes in ADHD services at a speciality clinic in North London said: “Covid-19 has had unprecedented impacts on the lives of many and in particular vulnerable groups, such as children with Autism and ADHD.

“One of the psychological morbidities associated with autism is a high prevalence of obsessive behaviours/obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

“Children with ASD may become obsessed with reading distressing Covid-19 information, leading to heightened anxiety.”

She added: “Also children in these spectrum rely heavily on routine and predictability. Due to the pandemic, the decreased social support and loss of routine can also lead to devastating long term emotional and behavioural impacts,”

During the pandemic, the number of countries with a functioning mental health and psychosocial support coordination platform in humanitarian emergencies has doubled. 90 per cent of Member States responding to a WHO survey in early 2021 reported that mental health and psychosocial support were included in their COVID-19 response plans.

Dr. Dinesh Kannan, a consultant psychiatrist at the London NHS Trust said: “The distress in the pandemic probably stems from people’s limited social interactions, tensions among families in lockdown together and fear of illness.

“It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Dr. Savitha Prakash, a specialist working with the community eating disorder team in West London, advised: “Take care of your body with regular exercise, well balanced meals, meditation and plenty of sleep. It is important to avoid excessive tobacco and alcohol. We need to remember that the virus is yet not gone and new variants are still causing havoc in many parts of the world.”Below are some tips to help people cope with the situation:

1) Take breaks from studies and work. Stay connected with current events if you find it helpful, but take care with where you find your news and health information. Try to use trusted sources.

2) Covid times have taught us the importance of keeping in touch with our near and dear ones, so connect with others and speak about your feelings/concerns.

There are various charity organisations offering regular advise, like Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L.) , Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), Samaritans, Local Minds etc. Mind runs an online peer support community where you can share your experiences and hear from others. Age UK has a guide to using video calls which may help. There are different guidelines for meeting with others across England and Wales. You can check the government coronavirus guidelines for where you live to find out how you can safely meet up with others.

3) Try a new hobby or activity like playing musical instrument, drawing, crafting, learning new recipes or reading books.

Use your creative side to express your feelings such as drawing, colouring, painting or collage sewing or craft kits, upcycling or finding creative new uses for things, DIY, singing or listening to music, writing, yoga or exercise, mindfulness, meditation.

4) Look after your physical health: It may feel difficult to take care of your physical health if you’re feeling anxious, stressed or low. But taking small steps to look after your body can have a big effect on your mental health.

Eating healthy and routine exercises. Daily routines and customised 5-10 minutes exercises at home and short walks in the park take us a long way in maintaining our physical and mental health needs.

5) Despite the above efforts if you feel you are continuing to struggle with mental health then please do not hesitate to contact your GP, Local mental health provider or coronavirus information Hub for support.

The legal requirement to wear a face covering has ended in England. But government guidance says it “expects and recommends” the continued wearing of masks in crowded areas such as public transport.