10:32 GMT25 January 2021
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    Medical experts from around the world have warned governments that the coronavirus pandemic is creating a global mental health crisis following widespread mass unemployment and social isolation.

    It comes as Japan released statistics that revealed more of its citizens had died due to suicide in October, than the total number of Japan’s Covid deaths, over the entire year.

    Ms. Ana Paula Nacif, a Lecturer in Coaching and Positive Psychology at the University of East London, looks at how the UK has fared over 2020 and what solutions individuals can undertake to improve their mental health.

    Sputnik: Before we look at how one can improve their resilience... what effect has Covid had on our mental health and moreover our mental wellbeing?  

    Ana Nacif: I think that it may be some time before we know the full extent of the psychological impact of the pandemic on our psychological wellbeing. I think people have reacted differently according to their own personal circumstances. We think people are adapting really quickly and rallying around things, getting things done, changing things... We've seen organisations, schools, communities, the health and social care sector really coming on and creating new ways of working, and dealing with these new circumstances. So, I think it depends on the person and their circumstances, I think some people have potentially had more of an impact, and really feeling for example, people working from home; they might be feeling lonely, they might be socially isolated, with all the lockdown. People are staying at home, perhaps not able to connect; we know that connections are really important for people in terms of their wellbeing. Equally, those who are not able to isolate and are going to work, they may be worried about the risks for themselves and their families. So, there is a range of different impacts that we see there for people's wellbeing as a result of the pandemic.

    A man looks for the grave of a relative, victim of the new coronavirus pandemic, in the cemetery Covid-19, on the Day of the Dead, in Tegucigalpa, on November 2, 2020.
    © AFP 2020 / Orlando Sierra
    A man looks for the grave of a relative, victim of the new coronavirus pandemic, in the cemetery "Covid-19", on the Day of the Dead, in Tegucigalpa, on November 2, 2020.

    Sputnik: Managing stress and building resilience, it's been a crucial skill for individuals during the pandemic. How has the UK fared in managing stress and staying resilient amongst the population? For example, have people struggle to adapt? Or have people adapted well to the changes that have occurred during the pandemic?

    Ana Nacif: I think we've seen both. I think we've seen people adapting really well and I think that's particularly relevant to the first lockdown that we had. You know as soon as we were told that we had to lock down, people started working from home, systems were built around that and people adapted really quickly, and we created that community spirit as well. If we remember, people are clapping for the NHS, and the NHS itself in some sort of systemic ways of working, they've created new ways of seeing patients for example; health and social care, care homes, the schools went online... so, that happened quite quickly and people adapted really, really well at that phase. I think what we're seeing now, lockdown two and a few months later, and a lot of uncertainty. So, people are starting to get a little bit of that fatigue, and then that's having an impact on people. I think overall we did well. There is that it's taking longer and we don't know what's coming up next, we're hoping that vaccines are coming, so hopefully next year we will see a turnaround there, so people start to feel a little bit better in terms of uncertainty. But also we've seen with the pandemic, that it's had an impact on people's day to day lives, but in their working lives we've seen people becoming unemployed, so that has an impact on the economy, and impact on really serious issues for people, and that is likely to really impact people's wellbeing.

    Sputnik: What coping strategies or tips would you recommend to people who are either struggling to manage stress or simply perhaps want to build and strengthen their resilience over the winter?

    Ana Nacif: I think people need to really be kind to themselves. People are potentially struggling to be as productive in work; perhaps because they are tired, they might be stressed and might be juggling things. I'm thinking about families with children who have to stay in school when they are isolating because there is a covid case, for example in school, and that can have an impact. Thinking about people who may have a loved one they haven't seen for a while, and they want to see them desperately, and that might have an impact. So, I think we need to do as much as we can in terms of being kind to ourselves.

    A man stands on a telephone booth during an anti-lockdown demonstration amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain November 28, 2020.
    A man stands on a telephone booth during an anti-lockdown demonstration amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain November 28, 2020.

    Look after our health as much as we can, in terms of physical mental health, and we're thinking about the usual things; eating well, sleeping well, avoiding any excessive alcohol and so on.

    Make connections wherever we can. So keeping in touch with our friends and colleagues [and] really strengthening those connections that we already have and perhaps sometimes even joining new ones. I've known of people going and joining online clubs, and virtual hobbies, and all the rest of it. Doing what we like is really important, so remember. And I think the day to day little moments of joy, finding and really taking time to observe the things that bring us joy. Sometimes it's that really nice cup of tea that we have in the morning, go for a walk, see nature... whatever it is that people have, that really brings a smile to their face, I think it's really important to remember that [and] to do that every day and finding time to relax and be kind to ourselves. I think the world is going a bit fast right now and I think we need to slow down and take stock and also really appreciate what we already have.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    social isolation, lockdown, pandemic, COVID-19
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