COVID-19 and Mental Health and Wellbeing
Messages to support those with mental health conditions12
Isolation and loneliness are common consequences of mental health conditions and may be exaggerated by imposed quarantines due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Problems with emotional regulation and a reduction in availability of professional support may trigger risky behaviors. For those with pre-existing mental health conditions, still getting the care you need in the context of COVID‐19 may prove more difficult. Indeed, in many health settings, only urgent visits and inpatient treatments settings for severe cases are provided and—where possible—online treatments (instead of face‐to‐face) have been recommended.3 In this new situation we are in, be assured that your mental health and wellbeing still matter, and the UN is committed to supporting your needs.
- Try to keep in touch with people who care for you and know who you can contact for support if you notice your mental health declining.
- If you are being treated for a mental health condition, make sure that you continue to take medication as prescribed, and that you have a way of re-stocking your medication. You might be able to order repeat prescriptions by phone, or online using a registered pharmacy website.
- If you are seeing a mental health specialist, find out how to continue with that support during the outbreak. Ask about having appointments by phone, text or online. For example, this could be with your counsellor, therapist or support worker, nurse, care worker or befriender.
- For those dealing with a mental health crisis or emergency, such as thinking about self-harm or suicide, you should get immediate expert assessment and advice to identify the best course of action. If you have already been given a Crisis Line number from a health professional, please call it. If you’re under the care of a mental health team and have a specific care plan that states who to contact when you need urgent care, follow this plan.
- If you are managing panic and anxiety, it might help to plan a ‘safe space’ in your home or using breathing exercises to comfort yourself.
- If you are feeling trapped or claustrophobic, beyond making use of the outdoors when you are able to leave the house, you could also open the windows to let in fresh air, find a place to sit with a view outside, or sit on your doorstep or in your garden if you have one. It can also help to regularly change the rooms you spend time in (if possible), which could help to give you a sense of space.
- If you are being treated for an alcohol or drug use disorder, be aware that the COVID-19 outbreak may lead to increased feelings of fear, anxiety and isolation that can increase the risk of relapse, substance use, disengagement from treatment or non-compliance with treatment regimens. Make sure that you continue to take medication as prescribed, and that you have a way of obtaining a regular supply of your medication. If you are receiving support through a psychologist or support group, find out how to continue that support during the outbreak.
- If you are being treated for gaming or gambling disorder, continue with your treatment if possible. Check with your therapist or health-care provider about the best way of continuing with therapy during confinement at home.
- If you struggle with an eating disorder, try to make a new routine for yourself in these unfamiliar circumstances to give yourself some structure. Practice self-care, including good sleep hygiene. If you are receiving treatment, try to stay in touch with your support team, as virtual check ins can provide much-needed accountability. If appointments are cancelled, consider keeping a journal to note how you are feeling which you can later share with a therapist.
- Remember that difficult moments have a beginning, middle, and end, so be patient and kind to yourself. Consider implementing tools you may have already developed to cope in difficult times.
Visit the Healthy Workforce webpage for additional information on the UN Workplace Mental Health and Well-being Strategy.