• Friday, September 17, 2021
India Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 443,928
Total Cases 33,347,325
Today's Fatalities 431
Today's Cases 30,570
Pakistan Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
Sri Lanka Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
Bangladesh Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
UK Corona Update 
Total Fatalities 418,480
Total Cases 31,216,337
Today's Fatalities 3,998
Today's Cases 42,015
India corona update 
Total Fatalities 443,928
Total Cases 33,347,325
Today's Fatalities 431
Today's Cases 30,570

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Minding mental health and coping with Covid-19

STAY POSITIVE: Not being able to meet family and friends can trigger feelings of loneliness, say experts

By: Manju Chandran

AS SOCIAL INTERACTIONS ARE LIMITED AMID THE PANDEMIC, FEELINGS OF ANXIETY AND BOREDOM ARE COMMON BUT HELP IS AVAILABLE

Christmas is around the corner and after weeks of being apart from our loved ones a temporary lifting of some restrictions will allow families to meet during the festive season.

It is a welcome move after our social interactions were limited in what would otherwise be a season of parties. Given the current circumstances around the coronavirus pandemic, it is not unusual to feel worried, anxious, bored or lonely.

Registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Trudi Seneviratne, told Eastern Eye, “It is important for our mental health that we connect with other people, especially people whom we are close to and who we can talk to about our feelings.

“However, because of the pandemic we need to find new ways of socialising using technology, for example, phone calls or video calls. We might not all be able to meet face to face, but we can still connect in other ways, and there are real benefits for our mental health from this.”

According to Dr Seneviratne, the pandemic has affected all our lives and many people will have experienced higher levels of stress and anxiety.

Dr Trudi Seneviratne

“People may fear catching the virus or transmitting it to a loved one, or they may be anxious about the impact on their finances. Feelings of loneliness and isolation are also likely because of being unable to see family or friends. On top of this, people may have been unable to exercise or get outside as much.”

For many of us, feeling low or being anxious are temporary and will pass.

However, if your mental health is affecting your daily life or you’re struggling to cope with anxiety or depression, then there is help available.

Dr Seneviratne said, “It is important that people take notice of how they are feeling and think about positive changes they can make in their routine. Your mental health is closely related to your physical health, so things like getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising regularly can really help improve our overall wellbeing. If you experience feelings of anxiety or depression and are struggling to cope with these, then you should speak to your GP or self-refer yourself to NHS mental health services.”

GPs can recommend Talking Therapies. It helps treat common mental health problems such as anxiety, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) among others, as well as depression.

Talking Therapies services (nhs.uk/talk) are available throughout the pandemic and therapies are delivered through a digital platform or over the phone, allowing people to stay in contact and get support more flexibly.

If you feel you cannot wait to speak to your doctor or feel unable to cope or to keep yourself safe, it’s important to get support. Services are open during the coronavirus pandemic. NHS urgent mental health helplines are available for people of all ages in England. You can call for 24-hour advice and support for you, your child, your parent or someone you care for. The lines offer help to speak to a mental health professional and offer an assessment to help decide on the best course of care.

Among some Asian families, there can at times be a reluctance to seek help for mental illnesses due to a sense of shame and stigma that the community will “look down upon” individuals seen to be experiencing mental ill health, said professor Dinesh Bhugra, emeritus professor of mental health and cultural diversity at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London.

Dinesh Bhugra

Dr Seneviratne concurred, saying, “This is an enormous conversation. Being from an Asian background, I recognise how taboo discussions about mental health are within families. There is stigma, shame and hiding of mental health issues. We need to tackle this stigma so that individuals can seek help much more proactively for themselves and their families. Importantly, we need to shift the culture so that families are able to discuss this more among themselves and friends as this is the most important source of support.”

Marcel Vige, head of equality improvement at mental health charity Mind, said, “We know there is still widespread stigma around mental health, which can be particularly true for people from south Asian communities. People often tell us that the strong sense of community and importance placed on family can be positive for their mental health, but some people tell us the need to preserve the family’s reputation and status in such close-knit environments can lead them to remain silent about their own feelings.

“Everyone deserves access to the right support when needed. Culturally appropriate services are vital so that we can make sure that everyone gets the right support when needed. This will help reduce the number of people entering support services when they are at crisis point.”

Among families where parents are caring for young PROFESSOR Chitsabesan listed signs parents should look out for and where they can access help for their children who might be experiencing increased stress during the pandemic.

Some signs parents should look out for:
■ You might find they are more upset or find it hard to manage their emotions
■ They may appear anxious or distressed
■ Increasing trouble with their sleeping and eating
■ Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful
■ Reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future
■ For younger children, there may be more regressed behaviour such as bed wetting or separation anxiety

If a parent is worried about their child’s mental health, they can help by:
■ Making time to talk to your child
■ Allow your child to talk to you about their feelings
■ Try to understand their problems and provide reassurance that you have heard them and are there to help
■ Help your child do positive activities, including exercise
■ Try to keep a routine over the next few months
■ Look after your own mental health.

If someone is in a crisis, the NHS provides urgent mental health helplines offering 24-hour advice and support, or an assessment to help decide on the best course of care.

See nhs.uk/urgentmentalhealth children and elderly grandparents in the same home, Dr Seneviratne said it’s vital that within the family, “people feel able to ask for help and talk about their stress or mental health issues. It’s also important that they can ask for help from the wider network of health and social care professions, without feeling embarrassed.”

Professor Bhugra noted that street-wide app groups have sprung up and neighbours are keeping an eye on vulnerable people.

“Those who live alone – whether by themselves or as a couple – may well need support for shopping, transport to hospital and appointments. In such instances, using phones, the internet or video contact can help reduce loneliness,” he said.

In addition, many Asian charities and gurdwaras are offering cooked meals to vulnerable people. “Asian communities are very aware and respectful of elders and the phenomenon is called filial piety, so are likely to look out for them.”

When it comes to children, a survey in October by NHS Digital showed there has been a rise in mental health problems in children and young people during the pandemic.

Professor Prathiba Chitsabesan, NHS England associate national clinical director for children and young people’s mental health, said: “As the whole country continues to find ways to live with the pandemic, many children and young people will be experiencing a range of feelings, including anxiety, sadness and loneliness, which are understandable responses to such an uncertain and stressful situation.

“Simple steps such as getting enough sleep, talking to friends or family and ensuring your child has a simple routine can make a huge positive difference. And the NHS, children’s services, schools, colleges and the voluntary sector are working together to provide a range of support, including 24/7 crisis support lines, face-to-face, telephone or digital appointments and support in schools so that issues can be identified and help offered sooner.”

Emotional wellbeing while staying at home

YOU or your loved ones may be feeling anxious due to staying indoors for prolonged periods with little contact from family, friends or colleagues (where people are working from home).

Professor Bhugra says “Limit the amount of news you watch or read, don’t overwhelm yourself and remember there are certain things that you cannot control so don’t expend energy worrying about things you can’t.”

“One should try and create transition periods during the day with short breaks whether this is for prayers, hymns, exercise, yoga or meditation. Even when working from home and if others may be working around you, it is critical to have a structure to the day.

“Having a designated daily worry time can help on the basis that one should not try and worry rest of the day. Try and connect to one’s senses and reach out to friends one on one. One is allowed to feel anxious, sad and lonely in these surreal times, but importantly, it is also critical to know where to seek help from.

“We all know what keeps us content or gets us rattled. For example, listening to music, physical exercise or meditation may not work for everyone, but will most certainly help certain individuals.”

Mental health charity Mind recommends going for a walk at lunchtime during winter, when daylight hours are reduced. Not everyone might have access to gardens or nearby outside space, so try even something like sitting by a window and watching the birds, which can be beneficial. Keep your mind active too. Consider trying an online course or see if your local library has an app to borrow books, audiobooks, or magazines.

■ Every Mind Matters is an NHS-approved website with expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your mental wellbeing and support others. At its heart is the free “Mind Plan” quiz, which asks simple questions to help build a personal action plan showing you some simple steps to look after your mental health and wellbeing.
■ If you need to talk, any time of day or night, there are free listening services available that offer confidential advice from trained volunteers: Call 116 123 free of charge or visit samaritans.org
■ Shout 85258 offers confidential 24/7 crisis text support for times when you need immediate assistance.
Text “SHOUT” to 85258 or visit Shout Crisis Text Line
■ Mind’s website has information on mental health and tips for coping with stress, anxiety and uncertainty. See: mind.org.uk/anxiety and mind.org.uk/coronavirus/
Mind has a confidential information and support line, Mind Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (9am – 6pm, Monday-Friday).

NHS urgent mental health helplines offer 24-hour advice and support – for you, your child, your parent or someone you care for.

Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline via nhs.uk/urgentmentalhealth

How to reduce stress in children

PROFESSOR Chitsabesan listed signs parents should look out for and where they can access help for their children who might be experiencing increased stress during the pandemic.

Some signs parents should look out for:

■ You might find they are more upset or find it hard to manage their emotions
■ They may appear anxious or distressed
■ Increasing trouble with their sleeping and eating
■ Appearing low in mood, withdrawn or tearful
■ Reporting worried or negative thoughts about themselves or their future
■ For younger children, there may be more regressed behaviour such as bed wetting or separation anxiety

If a parent is worried about their child’s mental health, they can help by:
■ Making time to talk to your child
■ Allow your child to talk to you about their feelings
■ Try to understand their problems and provide reassurance that you have heard them and are there to help
■ Help your child do positive activities, including exercise
■ Try to keep a routine over the next few months
■ Look after your own mental health.

If someone is in a crisis, the NHS provides urgent mental health helplines offering 24-hour advice and support, or an assessment to help decide on the best course of care.
See nhs.uk/urgentmentalhealth

*Produced in association with UK Government

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