Counsellor Diana Parkinson explains how people can safeguard their mental health during extended periods in isolation and lockdown.
Sputnik: How much of an impact will the coronavirus lockdown have on the British public’s mental health?
Diana Parkinson: I think that it will have a huge impact, given that we are in lockdown and that means that there is no face-to-face therapy anymore; I’ve taken my practice completely online.
For a lot of people, people who are working, they are very familiar with Skype, Facetime, and other technology, and they have access to it, so people can keep some sort of social life going. But, of course, there are older people who perhaps haven’t got this technology, and especially if they live on their own; they are completely isolated, and I would be extremely concerned for their mental and physical wellbeing.
Sputnik: What can people do to ward off mental health problems during the coronavirus lockdown?
Diana Parkinson: I think it very much depends on the family setup. If people of any age are within a family that is not a happy family, or is an abusive family, then that is going to be very disruptive and could turn out to be very damaging.
If people are in a happy family, then mental health will probably be fine. I think that people in towns and cities where they haven’t got a garden and easy access to the outdoors, then their mental and physical wellbeing will be affected.
It bothers me that the police in some cases have not been allowing people to sunbathe, I think that as long as people are not huddled together, then sunbathing is good, because we get a good dose of vitamin D, which is good for mental health and very important for physical health, so we do need the outdoors.
We also need to see people, so if people are able to get out, they can stay within a safe distance, have conversation, and people are now doing more of that talking from a safe distance than they would have done before we had a lockdown. People need to interact with one another.
Sputnik: Is adequate mental health support currently available, given that the NHS’ focus is now on fighting the physical effects of the coronavirus?
Diana Parkinson: I think at the moment it is purely focused on this terrible virus, and, of course, our NHS has been undervalued and underfunded, so these services are not something that would be on offer at the moment.
There are some online services available, but if you’ve got people who are old and don’t have access to a computer, then they are isolated, with only a telephone that they can talk on - and that is very worrying.
They could talk to a doctor, and they might be able to get some help, but the NHS is really being pushed to the limits at the moment.
Thank goodness for the technology that some moaned about, because now it is a life-saver, the fact that we can see one another if we are lucky enough to have the devices, so this is where devices are put to good use.
I’m hoping that people will be less self-absorbed going forward and much more caring, and I’m hoping, just as we are seeing this man aged 99 who has raised 12 million pounds for the NHS, that we now go forward and see the real heroes in life, the people who are really important, that have not been recognised, and certainly not been paid properly, compared with celebrities, which I’m hoping will become a little bit fainter, as we have been paying lots of money to people who haven’t really been contributing.
I’m hoping that we will be a much more caring, thoughtful, and appreciative society once we come through this.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.