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Feeling anxious during Covid crisis ‘quite normal’

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MENTAL health services are coping well, despite the pressures lockdown has placed on the mental health of the community, according to Dr Dominic Bishop, the services’ Clinical Director.

Wherever possible, the service has operated remotely to protect users and staff, although when necessary staff still conduct face-to-face meetings in full PPE.

The Healthy Minds service, which provides talk therapy for people with mild to moderate mood disorders, is still accepting self-referrals and referrals from GPs.

Although secondary care, which includes outpatient clinics, psychological therapies and the community teams has asked GPs to withhold referrals until after lockdown has lifted.

Referrals for those in urgent need of secondary care will still be accepted.

There had been an increase in reports of suicidal thoughts and self-harm in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, while young social anxiety sufferers were described as thriving under lockdown.

However, sections of the public that do suffer from anxiety, both adults and young people, could struggle more during the easing of lockdown and the return to school or work.

It had also been difficult to predict how some individuals would react to lockdown, Dr Bishop said.

‘Some of the people we’ve been most worried about, so people with major mental illness, living on their own who’re relatively isolated, have actually coped incredibly whereas people who have been stable for years have de-compensated,’ he said.

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The service was also concerned about the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of frontline medical workers and established a support structure for them early on

‘When we initially went into lockdown a group of clinicians from our service Healthy Minds and Occupational Health formed a working group to think about what might be necessary if staff started to struggle,’ Dr Bishop said.

‘We also allocated a senior clinician to each area.

‘That’s to public messaging, to the hospital staff, to the community HSSC staff and community staff from the private sector.

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‘We’ve reached out to all of those sectors and we’ve seen several people and we hope that we’ve helped them but we haven’t been overwhelmed.’

Mental Health doctors had also prepared to step in and help at the hospital if Covid-19 case numbers were overwhelming and received a brief ICU training course in preparation, although they have not been called upon.

Dr Bishop concluded by explaining that feeling anxious during the lockdown was not abnormal.

‘What we’re experiencing at the moment is entirely normal,’ he said.

‘Anxiety is fear without threat, or exaggerated fear to a threat.

‘We are facing a threat, so we should be worried and actually it’s that worry that will hopefully keep us on message and keep us working the way Dr Brinks team wants us to and that will control the virus.’

Zach Coffell

By Zach Coffell
News reporter

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