By Nico Strydom
The Covid-19 pandemic, which was caused by a virus, had a serious impact on people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
The Solidarity Occupational Guild for Social Workers consulted experts about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown on people’s mental health. Amongst other things, it made people feel that they have lost control and this was accompanied by increased stress, fear, anxiety and depression.
The South African Federation for Mental Health says that the consequences of Covid-19, including the lockdown, are going to have long-term effects on people’s mental health.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a lot of uncertainty into our lives and will probably cause trauma in vulnerable people,” says Dr Marshinee Naidoo, a psychiatrist at Akeso Alberton in Johannesburg.
“The pandemic leads to increased potential for traumatic experiences, for instance if a loved one gets sick and has to be hospitalised, having to live isolated from family and friends, or a relationship that breaks up due to the tension brought about by uncertainty and fear.”
Sandy Lewis, a clinical social worker and head of therapeutic services at Akeso’s mental health facilities, is of the opinion that anxiety and worry are understandable emotions when one thinks about the future.
“Try not to get entangled in negative thought or to mope over the past. Avoid negative thoughts such as ‘I have always expected something bad to happen to me’ or ‘why me?’ because this leads to more anxiety.”
According to Lewis it is important to focus on what has to be done today and to find solutions to those issues. “Concentrating on today’s aspects is of much more value than worrying about the future, which nobody can predict.”
By determining what leads to feelings of anxiety or other diverting reactions such as self-reproach, one can try to avoid the specific triggers or to find ways to avoid them.
“If you find it difficult to stop yourself from thinking about the past or becoming anxious about the future, you could find healthy ways of diversion. Rather than worry, you can go for a walk, work in the garden, listen to music, cook, consider a new hobby or watch a favourite movie or series.”
According to reports the heart condition stress cardiomyopathy, or broken-heart syndrome, has increased fourfold since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nicole Jennings, spokesperson for Pharma Dynamics, says the drawn-out lockdown and isolation resulted in people missing special occasions and not seeing friends and family for long periods, and this had a big effect on people’s hearts.
“In most cases broken-heart syndrome is caused by serious tension and extreme emotions, such as having to handle the sudden loss of a loved one, divorce or a big financial loss. The unexpected adrenalin rush weakens the heart muscle, which causes irregular heart rhythms.”
According to Jennings people should try to handle stress and anxiety. “Try relaxation techniques, eat healthy, exercise, spend time outside and talk to people about your worries.”
Pharam Dynamics: https://pharmadynamics.co.za/