Thursday 26 November, 2020

COVID-19 and mental health: Knowing when to seek professional help

As many people across the nation are currently staying at home or isolating themselves from others, the issue of mental health has come to the forefront as a serious health issue adjacent to the battle against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).   

Many are now experiencing heightened levels of anxiety or stress associated with both the fear of contracting COVID-19 as well as the severe economic implications of the battle against the virus.

While the Ministry of Health has, in the past, shared coping mechanisms for those people who are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, stress and other mental health issues, it may be difficult to determine when you may need to seek professional help to deal with those problems.

Speaking at the daily media briefing from the Ministry of Health, Dr Hazel Othello, Director of the Mental Health Unit at the Ministry, shared some signs you should look out for to determine whether you should contact a mental health professional for additional support.

According to Dr Othello there are two major considerations when determining if someone should seek professional help.

The first is the severity of their symptoms.

Dr Othello said the body responds to stress in a way we are all aware – we may refer to it as tension or feeling nervous. She explained that a number of biochemical changes take place in order for you to act on your flight or fight response to a potential threat.

With anxiety however, these physiological changes may take place without a tangible threat or stimulus.

These can include an increased heart rate, sweating and feelings of disorientation.

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She said that while, in the early stages, personal coping mechanisms may be able to help with alleviating some of the symptoms, some may experience an escalation of those symptoms, for example, someone whose heart is racing so much they feel that “they are going to die”.

It is in those instances that it may be necessary to medical support.

Dr Othello also stressed that if you are experiencing palpitations and other heart-related issues, it is also important to seek medical intervention to ensure there is no other underlying cause of those symptoms such as a heart attack or asthma.

The other factor that must be taken into consideration is dysfunction.

Dr Othello said people must be conscious of when their level of stress or anxiety renders them unable to function in the way they would normally. If you are no longer able to perform particular roles or participate in activities that you are accustomed to, it may be a sign you need to seek professional help.

Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh confirmed that the doctors manning the COVID-19 hotline 877-WELL (9355) will be trained in mental health response so that they are also able to assist people who call in seeking help for those issues.

This is in addition to the other mental health resources currently available to the public, the list of which you can access here.

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