Dr. Cherrilyn Warde Crawford, Clinical Psychologist within the Ministry of Health, said it is normal to feel anxious as the Federation faces the COVID-19 pandemic, but cautioned persons should take steps to ensure that their anxieties do not cause a more serious issue.
“It is normal to have this level of anxiety. It is normal to feel some stress because we are dealing with something that is new and we are dealing with something that has severe consequences for us and our loved ones,” said Dr. Crawford. “So it’s normal to have some feelings of anxiety and stress, but at the same time we want people to know if you continue to have these feelings it could spiral out of control. So instead of having some symptoms of anxiety, you might develop a full blown anxiety disorder.
Dr. Crawford said that persons may develop depression if they do not take measures to ensure that they cope well.
“One of the ways to cope is to have some sort of structure in your life so even if you have isolation, we want you to create some sort of structure. If you have to stay at home, when you get up in the morning do not stay in your pajamas all day. Get out of the pajamas. If you are accustomed to bathe by 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., you try to keep that structure. You get up, you bathe, you have your breakfast and you make sure you plan activities to do throughout the day,” she said.
Those activities may have to be limited and in accordance with social distancing, said Dr. Crawford.
“You may have to watch TV from this time to that time. Factor in, calling your grandmother at this time. I’m going to facetime her if I can or just give her a call. Even if you have to have some sort of mundane conversation with your grandmother or with somebody, you do these kinds of things. You can schedule in some scrabble,” she said.
Dr. Crawford said if persons have children, depending on their age, it is vital that they are involved in the activities, and added that parents or guardians must create structure for them.
“Structure is very important. We don’t want people to stay home and wonder what I’m going to do with myself. They may feel bored. Persons and adolescences who tend to be a little bit antsier want to move around and things like that,” she said. “Put in a little exercise in the yard. We are not saying if you are under isolation or quarantine you should go to the park. You can exercise in your backyard. You can also play games with children.”
She noted that social distancing does not mean persons cannot communicate with their neighbours or be emotionally distant.
“You can be on your verandah and me on my verandah and we have a conversation. That sense of having something to do is going to be very helpful,” said Dr. Crawford.
Mental Health Experts Recommend Ways to Reduce Mental Illness
Persons with mental challenges are among the vulnerable groups who are at risk from the global spread of COVID-19, and mental health professionals in St. Kitts and Nevis have suggested measures that they can take to minimize mental health problems.
That risk isn’t directly related to exposure to the virus, but rather the impact of fear, anxiety, loneliness and panic that can develop as a result of the global pandemic.
“If you look at what is happening with this COVID-19 situation, it is requiring us to use all of our facilities and faculties to be able to manage this and make sense of it,” Michele de la Coudray Blake, Director of Counselling in the Ministry of Social Development, said, while appearing on this week’s edition of the radio programme “Working for You.”
Looking at the current circumstances from the viewpoint of a mentally ill person, Mrs. De la Coudray Blake said with the current overload from the media, “I have to find a way to balance all of this and make myself engage in self-care activities to balance it out; reach out to others so that I am not isolated. I have to do things above and beyond.“
She added persons might feel overwhelmed and may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, or may even practice an intense form of isolation because they are unable to cope with the realities of the COVID-19.