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How might COVID-19 affect all of us psychologically?

Professor Simon Wessely explains in a video the challenges to our mental health during COVID-19.

Professor Sir Simon Wessely

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

Download Transcript of Simon Wessely (right click or tap/hold and open in new tab)

Let’s review some of what Professor Wessely has told us.

To understand the challenges to our mental health during COVID-19, we can look at things that keep us mentally healthy. Decades of research, clinical findings, and indeed common-sense point toward several factors. These include:

  • Positive social contact; preferably including ongoing intimate relationships. Perceived loneliness, which can be increased by isolation, is bad for our health. It affects our mood, our immune system, and even our recovery rates from illness.

  • Engagement in meaningful activity. This can happen in employment, or outside of it. Being able to take part in tasks or hobbies that we value is essential for our psychological health.

  • If we do have a job, having a degree of control over employment and work is key for good health. A lack of perceived control over our work is bad for us and can increase work-related stress.

  • And unsurprisingly, sleeping, eating well and being physically active. Although these are the most common sense factors, they can make a significant difference to our well-being.

There are other factors, but you might see where this is going: the current situation disrupts all of the above. It does not make them impossible, but we need to work harder to achieve them.

Pause for thought

So, what makes the current situation difficult for our well-being activities? In summary, a lot, but have a think about the main ones for you.

Scale of adjustment

As Professor Wessely explained, under lockdown we have had to stop or drastically adjust many of the activities and routines that usually keep us well.

This is a global issue, not a local issue. Every structure, organisation, and routine we rely on has been affected. Although we may “all feel in it together” – which isn’t necessarily the case – it means that there is no person, service, or area of unaffected calm outside the crisis. We will think together over the course about the psychological implications of this.

Yet, amid these difficulties, there are reports of social cohesion and of solidarity. People are discovering meaningful activities, regaining the sense of at least some degree of control, and finding ways to help others. Over this course we’ll attempt to understand and accept the psychological challenges we face as a starting point. This, in turn, will hopefully help provide opportunities to connect and find meaning through this difficult period.

Which of these activities or challenges resonate with you the most? Please share your experiences in the discussion below.
© Maudsley Learning © Tavistock & Portman NHS FT
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COVID-19: Psychological Impact, Wellbeing and Mental Health

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