The Impact of Coronavirus on Mental Health- A personal view

I was very touched today when Drgettingsober commented on my last post saying that she was worried that I hadn’t been around for a couple of weeks. I was really taken aback that she should say that but then I reflected that I have felt the same when certain bloggers haven’t appeared for a while. It means there’s a real, genuine care out there. A concern for how people, we haven’t met, but we know from their posts, are doing. That seems to be something special and so in light of that I’m going to do my bit and post a bit more regularly.

I had thought,”who cares about whether you drink or not when all this other stuff is going on,” but of course this forum is about so much more than that. On the drinking side I’m just glad that I now don’t drink; firstly I want to be fully aware and cognisant of what’s going on so that I can make good choices and secondly my immune system is my personal doctor and drug supplier that will hopefully get me through this crisis. I don’t want that amazing ally to be weakened and compromised by alcohol.

So I thought I’d make a couple of observations about the impact of the virus on mental health. I volunteer with Samaritans which for those not in the UK, is a national helpline for those in need of a confidential talk with a supportive listener. It’s often referred to as a suicide helpline but this is only a part of what the service offers. People ring in who are lonely, had a bad day, have ongoing mental health needs, maybe suffering abuse; basically people in distress. As you can imagine the topic that comes up all the time at the moment is the virus situation. For those with mental health needs the fear and uncertainty has just added an extra layer of anxiety thus adversely affecting most people’s emotional well being. Our role is to listen and understand, to be a compassionate point of contact for people who may feel frightened and isolated. We can also signpost to organisations that can offer direct advice and additional support.

Going on duty I was expecting the negative aspects of how the fear and anxiety was impacting on people’s mental health. How do you reassure those with pre existing anxiety and OCD issues? It’s not easy. But then another theme emerged which really surprised me. Some of this came from callers but also a friend who suffers from anxiety and depression. The surprising theme was that now others were experiencing what they had been experiencing for years they felt strangely comforted. Staying at home, living with anxiety. This was becoming a “normal” situation suddenly for so many and a few who suffered from depression actually felt better knowing that they were not alone. It’s a strange kind of logic but I get it. There is a comfort when after years of feeling you are missing out on the regular stuff of life, that others are going through the same thing, albeit involuntarily. My friend with depression also feels more positive now in that he feels he can help others and this has boosted his confidence and self esteem. Some who are isolated and have been for years showing empathy for those that now have to feel isolation maybe for the first time. Surprising stuff.

All of this shows me we have to be careful in assuming this crisis is a one way ticket to a worsening mental health situation. Of course many will have increased anxiety and feelings of hopelessness but others will be strangely comforted and energised by no longer feeling they are the only ones suffering. Also in our physical isolation many of us are reaching out, using means such technology and music to connect, setting up neighbourhood help schemes, applauding health workers every night at 8pm (Spain) and looking at creative ways to maintain our lives in difficult times. That’s got to be good for our collective mental health.

One thing that the Samaritans work shows me is that just being there for someone, the simple act of listening to someone who needs to pour it out, can make a big difference. Not everyone is going to experience worse mental health in these tough times, some may even see an improvement, but being there for each other will make a difference. Just like it does on these blogs.

Take care all. Jim x

Samaritans Here’s a link if you want to find out more. Oh, and volunteers always required 🙂

32 thoughts on “The Impact of Coronavirus on Mental Health- A personal view

  1. clairei47

    Fabulous post here Jim and so glad you are going to post regularly. I think people will really appreciate your thoughts and support (and be glad to know you are ok)! I am definitely going to volunteer for Samaritans once their training starts again.
    Claire xx

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Thanks Claire. Good to hear you’re going to volunteer , you’ll be great judging by the care and compassion you show on here. Just one note of caution don’t take on too much! Stay safe. Jim X

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  2. Amy Helina

    This is so wonderful! I love that you volunteer, and thank you for that. I am finding that the support everyone is sending out virtually has been incredible! So many people are creating support groups on social media platforms and it is so nice! Wouldn’t it be awesome if people were always this caring and nice? On the other hand, there are people out there who are hoarding all of the toilet paper so there’s that… Glad to hear you are doing well through all of this.

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Yep its that perennial thing of some things bring out the best and sometimes the worst in people. lets hope the good outweighs the bad. Then something positive may come out of this currently grim situation.
      Jim x

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  3. nomorebeer2019

    Fuck yeah, Jim!!! in a way this crisis is forcing those who have been avoiding “reality” for years (whatever the means: denial, addiction, selfishness, excessive partying, prejudice against mental-health-talk, workaholism at the expense of intimate connection, etc. etc.) now have to “catch up” with those who were already suffering (perhaps due to greater sensitivity? who knows) and have nowhere to run anymore. In a strange way, all this time and quiet is forcing many to pause and evaluate their lives and go deeper than their busy everyday life previously allowed it. Quarantine, like meditation retreats, can definitely help mental health. 🙂
    And then there is “action”: how can we help in this situation? health professionals, mental health professionals and delivery people are keeping the world alive right now. I hope we can all truly appreciate this and express gratitude for them and find our own way to help too, even if it’s very small. Jim you’re obviously way ahead of the game, your Samaritans work is absolutely crucial – I wish I could offer something as meaningful as that to others. I’m clicking on that link right now ! xxx thanks for the awesome post, ❤ Anne

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      It seems people are genuinely appreciating the work of medical staff in all its forms right now and that’s just as it should be. They are on the front line. I have a feeling Anne that you will be someone who is and will make a big difference in and to the world. No question! Jim x

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  4. Addy

    Interesting observation about anxiety. I am finding the daily press conferences unnerving as each day it gets worse and more alarming, even though I understand the logic behind it. You are right about the blogging community though. We all seem to stick together through thick and thin.

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      I never do Dana, well I suppose there have been times. My big hope is that we collectively learn lessons form this crisis, but don’t hold your breath. Stay safe Dana. Jim x

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Thanks Wendy , it’s interesting speaking to a Spanish friend via Skype it seems that volunteering is much bigger here in the UK than in say Spain. Here it is very common, especially after retirement, for people to volunteer, is it the same in the U.S.? Just to let you know your “work” on here has also made a huge difference to many people! Stay safe. Jim x

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  5. Lovie Price

    thanks for that perspective ..it’s always good to have the yin and yang of things out there. As a home care nurse in Pediatrics, i am seeing the strain of it on everyone, especially parents who have never been around their children this many hours a day. It is quite the eye opener for some.But i am of the above sector in that i have pretty much lived in isolation such as this for quite a while, especially being a night shifter and one on one caregiver. Not many understand what it was like NOT to have hardly any real socialization or contact with society for extended periods of time and it is somewhat of a comfort to me now to feel not so alone in it.Even afterwards, i will continue the same routine. Thank you so much for doing what you do. I cannot imagine . But it sounds like you are grateful to help as well. Kudos!

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Hi Lovie, there is a massive strain on people at the moment. Regarding Samaritans I had to close our branch last night following the government’s new line on isolation. I’m not sure what will happen to our service. I just hope we can continue because some people are just not coping at the moment.
      Good point about me being grateful because that is the case. One gets so much from doing stuff like Samaritans. Research shows that helping others actually improves your own mental health. That’s what I call a win-win!😀 Jim x

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  6. sobrietytree

    “the simple act of listening to someone who needs to pour it out, can make a big difference.” Yes, that’s why it’s okay to keep blogging, about anything, especially in times of crisis – and/or especially good to support, and not judge, others for doing that, if they choose to. Nicely said — and done! 🙌👯‍♀️👯‍♂️🙌😉😜🌱🌻
    Thanks for being there, for everyone. 🙏🌷

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  7. jacquelyn3534

    Really great read! I couldn’t agree more with not wanting to compromise our immune system during this crisis. We need all of us “here” to help our families and those around us. Thank you for being here and everywhere for all of us!

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  8. sobrietytree

    Hey again, Mr. Jim…
    Just stopping in, to say the feed is missing your voice, in sobriety blogland…. nudge nudge. ;)) Absolutely no pressure though… it’s so important to take time offline, too. 👍🙏🧘🏼‍♂️Mainly just wanted you to know, was thinking of you. 🤗🌻

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    1. Jim Simmonds Post author

      Hi Nadine- the pressure, the pressure. Glad you’re thinking of me, and your reward shall be a post- right now. I don’t know whether to go serious, funny, or pedestrian. So many choices! You choose! Jim x

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  9. thelevinelowdown

    Thank you for this interesting and insightful post, it was great to learn from your thoughts! I have recently published an article on the economic and mental health impacts of this pandemic and how we can solve them. If you have time, it would be great if you could check out my post and let me know your thoughts! Thanks and all the best 🙂

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  10. Pingback: The Impact of Coronavirus on Mental Health- A personal view – Faisal khan

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