Coronavirus outbreak: how to maintain mental health

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The Mental Health Foundation says fears about the virus may cause damage to people’s mental health

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13th February 2020 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

A charity has issued guidance on how to stay mentally well during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many people are now worried about the potential reach of the disease, which has so far killed almost 1,400 worldwide.

The Mental Health Foundation says fears about the virus may cause damage to people’s mental health.

Dr Antonis Kousoulis, director of the foundation, said: “Infectious disease outbreaks, like the current coronavirus, can be scary. While it is important to stay informed, there are many things we can do to manage our wellbeing. We have issued these tips because the virus is getting massive news coverage and there are things that people can do to look after their mental health.”

Among the tips are trying to avoid speculation and to look up reputable sources on the outbreak.

Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control.

People are urged to follow hygiene advice such as washing your hands often, particularly after using public transport, using tissues if you sneeze and disposing of them, and staying at home if you are feeling unwell.

The charity urged people to try to stay connected and to remain calm.

Dr Kousoulis said that at times of stress, we work better in company and with support. Try and keep in touch with your friends and family or contact a helpline for emotional support.

He added that it is normal to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed as we read news about the outbreak, especially if you have experienced trauma or a mental health problem in the past.

The doctor added: “It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should also be aware of and avoid increasing habits that may not be helpful in the long term, like smoking and drinking.

“Try and reassure people you know who may be worried."

People must also avoid making assumptions about the virus.

For example, don’t judge people and avoid jumping to conclusions about who is responsible for the spread of the disease. The coronavirus can affect anyone regardless of gender, ethnicity or sex.

A caring and supportive stance improves the chances of prevention and recovery. And remember that not every cold or cough is the coronavirus.

The outbreak has received huge coverage in the media – but the foundation says that if the news is stressing you out, it’s important to find a balance. It’s best that you don’t avoid all news and that you keep informing and educating yourself, but limit your news intake if it is bothering you.

Involving our family and children in our plans for good health is also essential. We need to ask children what they have heard about the outbreak and support them.

Don’t avoid scary topics but engage in a way that is understandable to children.

19th March 2020 by Robyn

Thanks for this. I needed some clear concise information and this is really useful.