Wednesday, February 24News For London

Self-coping in a Covid world: dealing with mental health

A person sits on the steps near Buckingham Palace. Photo by: Anjali Dalal

It’s been nine months since the world entered a global pandemic. Since March, reports of deteriorating mental health have risen steeply, and experts fear that number is only increasing.

Redundancies are at an all time high, and in the UK young people aged 18-24 were twice as likely to report thoughts and feelings of self-harm than any other demographic in the region.

Lockdown has been “really tough”

Students were one of the hardest hit demographics during the lockdown, as campuses closed and classes transitioned online.

“I completely took commuting for granted. I really needed that structure – once I got onto the train I was in my ‘uni’ bubble. Doing everything from socialising on Zoom and trying to do everything in once space got really overwhelming,” said Isobel G., 20, a politics and history student.

Cutbacks in funding and course restructuring at university changed the way Isobel approached her education: “I considered deferring until face to face lectures were back.

“I felt hesitant to reach out to tutors because I know they’re overworked and don’t have much time- so my issues are not that important.”

London Park Photo by: Sumair A.

Within the UK, feelings of anxiety and stress amongst students are common. The National Union of Students (NUS) also warned that  those living in halls would be severely impacted.

“The first lockdown was really tough. My anxiety got really worse during this time… I was unable to sleep. During that time we weren’t even sure if we could leave [our halls] and go for a walk,” said Sumair A., 24, an international student pursuing his masters in London.

While mental health charities like Student Minds offered free resources to support students, Sumair felt that there was still some stigma surrounding mental health – something he imposed on himself.

“I know we say you should not have this stigma around mental [health] but when it comes to you, I was like shaming myself for being dependent on medication.”

Taking walks and spending time in nature helped Sumair and studies show it is one of the best ways to cope with anxiety and depression.

There’s no motivation to have goals

“The full-time furlough was the most challenging. I felt very lost and demotivated,” said Jack G., 31. He was furloughed from his marketing job since March, and now only works part-time.

“I found myself lacking motivation to even get out of bed,” he said. Although he searched online for ways to cope, he did not find anything that helped.

“I contemplated counselling but decided against it, because of a poor experience as a kid.”

Being at home during the holidays are different

Adapting to new ways of delivering lectures increased stress levels for teachers during lockdown, according to new Nuffield-funded research from UCL.

“Health is being judged by skin, physical stability is the main focus. Pandemic is a platform to address our mental health,” says Aman Nawaz, a literature professor at University of Delhi.

Transition in learning platform did not come smooth to the students or teachers as Aman observes: “Nobody turns their camera on. I can’t see if my students are in a healthy environment with a learning mindset.”

2020 has been the year of telecommunications , not by choice, but everything is bounded together through World Wide Web. Social gatherings are yet to find a substitute.

Counselling sessions have been conducted online from early this year. “You don’t feel the energy as much in a face-to-face session. Subconscious body movements aren’t visible. But, I think the first experience of lockdown has prepared us and we talk more in the online meetings,” claims Diana Simpson-Hinds, a Psychotherapist at Blooming Familie.

According to her, addressing things that are bothering and reaching out are few of the best ways out in such difficult hours.

Some of the full names have been withheld in this article at the request of the people interviewed.