Until a couple of months ago, most of us have never heard of the Coronavirus. We now find ourselves overwhelmed with daily Covid-19 statistics and information. You’ve likely experienced some anxiety and depression from resultant personal circumstances, information overload, fake news and miscommunication. In addition, balancing working from home while homeschooling children, the stress of job or work losses, health anxiety, food insecurity, loneliness and bereavement are just some of the challenging situations we are dealing with during this time. These situations could predispose an individual to a mental illness depending on how effectively they can deal with their stressors.
The impact of Covid-19 on mental wellbeing
As a result of Covid-19, there is likely to be a higher prevalence of people who have their mental wellbeing compromised. Individuals who may have been managing already serious mental health issues may find themselves relapsing. Others who may not have realised that they have underlying mental illness might learn otherwise under these unfavourable circumstances. Lastly, those who have no mental illness at all can start experiencing mental health issues due to the stressors they are currently dealing with.
Although a cause for mental illness is still unknown, genetic, environmental and social influences have been identified as factors that can put people at risk. A genetic predisposition results from genetic variations that are often inherited from a parent, like depression. An environmental factor could be exposure to toxins or a head injury, while a social factor could be exposure to abuse or neglect during childhood.
Cautionary signs to look out for
Each mental illness has different characteristic symptoms, however, there are general warning signs that can indicate if someone needs professional help. Below are warning signs of mental illness from the American Psychiatric Association. If you identify with several of these, it is advisable to seek medical help.
- Withdrawal and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Drop in functioning or difficulty in performing familiar tasks.
- Problems thinking and/or illogical thinking.
- Apathy, the loss of initiative or desire to participate in anything.
- Marked changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
- Extreme mood swings.
- Feeling disconnected from oneself or surroundings.
- Unusual and odd behavior.
How to improve your mental wellbeing
To maintain and improve your mental wellbeing, there are things you can do:
- Build and maintain fulfilling relationships.
- Maintain a healthy and balanced diet.
- Engage in exercise, meditation and mindfulness.
- Seek mental wellbeing advice.
- Learn new skills.
- Maintain balance between work and play.
Most importantly, remain aware of your body, your emotions and your day-to-day behaviour to identify when you’re off balance. If you can’t shake the feeling or find equilibrium, ask for help.
Silindokuhle is an Industrial/Organisational Psychologist registered with the HPCSA. She holds a Master’s degree from UKZN and runs an independent practice specialising in psychological assessments, training and wellbeing.