COPING WITH COVID-19 : Prof.Vimal Sharma, Manchester(U.K.)

COVID 19-Mental health Innovations
Professional experiences and responses

One of the important outcome of the COVID 19 Pandemic is the large focus on mental health. I can only think of the Tsunami of the 2004 and the earlier 9/11 terror attack of 2001, when a similar focus was made on emotional health of the general population.

The postings of today and tomorrow will focus on the experiences / responses mental health professionals and the general public.

The three writings are by Prof. Vimal Sharma of Manchester, U.K. , Prof.Priti Arun, Chandigarh and Dr. Nagarajiah of Bangalore.

Prof. Sharma reflects on the larger issue of the COVID 19 and identifies 5 responses to cope with the pandemic, namely, connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, and give. Wise and practical steps of emotional health.

Prof.Priti covers the impact of lockdown on children. The article is very special as it brings her rich experiences with children in general and children with a diagnosis of disabilities in particular. The article’s strength is the specific activities that can be taken to improve emotional health of children.
It is a model to follow in all emotional health interventions- not give advice but empower.

Dr.Nagarajiah shares the impact of the lockdown on himself and his immediate community. He also shares his way of maintaining emotional health.

R.Srinivasa Murthy
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COPING WITH Covid-19

Covid-19 is a worldwide illness disaster that will test the limits of all aspects of Human Resources. The pain of those who are affected by this pandemic directly or indirectly due to loss of lives, livelihoods and so forth is unimaginable. The personal, family and social impact of Covid-19 is likely to last for a very long time, perhaps for life long for this generation. We all are right in the middle of it and no one knows when and how will this end. Perhaps a vaccine, or some kind of effective treatment, but that looks so far away. Staying away from any potential source of infection seems only way forward at the moment with a hope that the chain of infection will eventually be broken.

To stay safe seems to be the utmost social responsibility all of us have. In doing so, we may feel isolated, deprived of rights to enjoy things, stressed due to living with uncertainty and many of us may experience loss of income. This is particularly true for daily wage earners and self-employed people and it is hard to understand their agony at present time unless you are one of them.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them who lost their loved ones through this illness. But those who survived and the rest lucky ones who kept themselves safe must spare some time in reflecting on values and meaning of life. We take lot of things granted and righteous. Multi-facet developments and progress of recent decades had given us a sense of false security that we are capable of concurring any untoward events. But Covid-19 pandemic is a wake up call for our vulnerabilities no matter how rich or developed we are. Most severe impact of Covid-19 on all developed nations has proven that.

On a larger scheme of things, this pandemic will be considered as a relatively minor worldwide incident in the lists of the Plague and the Spanish flu pandemics, world wars etc. It is also likely that our future generations may face even worse and deadly pandemics caused by newer agents.

But one thing is certain (at least for the foreseeable future) that the planet earth, along with our solar system as a part of the universe will survive. Human race is reasonably resilient to overcome these kinds of disasters and often emerge even stronger after such events and no doubt the same will be repeated in coming months.

People often talk about mental or emotional impact of such disasters and no doubt many of us experience negative feelings such as being distressed, apprehensive or even despondent. These reactions are natural and if any thing motivate us to find ways forward to get over them. People learn from each other how to be positive and constructive in such challenging times. Mass communication through media but more importantly social media these days highlight how people are making best use of their time, from yoga to dancing, cooking to reading books, cleaning all corners of their houses and so forth. Foresight, the UK government‟s futures think-tank, as part of the Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing carried out an extensive evidence based research on ways to live a happy life. Five factors or ways of living were identified that are used in a number of countries for improving wellbeing of their populations.

These five ways are particularly helpful in Covid-19 ridden world.

1: Connect:
With the people around you (through video calls). With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

2: Be active:

Carry out physical activity what ever you can. Exercising makes you feel good and proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

3: Take notice:
Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

4: Keep learning:
Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Take on a different responsibility at home. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

5: Give:
Do something good for anyone particularly who is needy. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you. Giving back to society make the life worthwhile.

Covid-19 assault on human race has put a break on all activities of mankind. In the midst of fear of health and economic uncertainty, a number of positive consequences have emerged. The air we breath , the water in rivers and lakes have become cleaner. Reduced traffic has led to less road-traffic accidents. People are applying new ways of doing things using technology.

But most of all, this has given us the most valuable thing in life that is time. Time to reflect on ourselves and the world around us. Time for us to write this brief note and possibly for you to read!

We believe that within a short span of time, the mankind will overcome this disaster and emerge stronger who not only cares for itself but also for the environment necessary for its survival.

Vimal Kumar Sharma
MD, FRCPsych, Ph.D.
Professor of Global Mental Health Research

Division of Population Health, School of Health Sciences
FBMH, University of Manchester
4th Floor Ellen Wilkinson Building
Manchester, M13 9PL

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