Dr Matthew Cullen, Psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney
No-one likes to be self-isolated. And that sense of being trapped makes many of us worried about how we stay mentally healthy.
It’s actually not that complicated. And the trick is to remember that this period of self-isolation is going to come to an end. And it will not go on for ever. So, staying positive and looking towards the future with a reality, is a critical part of staying mentally healthy.
Having got yourself into that headspace. Not necessarily focussed on the immediate negative, but realising that this is going to come to an end. There are certain things that you can do that will help to stay as fit and healthy as possible.
Firstly, try and exercise. Obviously, social distancing needs to be practised, but we know that walking, for example, is a very good way to stay mentally healthy.
Secondly, stay in touch with people. Clearly, you can’t gather, but you are able to use the phone, use social media to stay in touch and communicate.
Thirdly, don’t focus just on the doom and gloom. Yes, COVID-19 is a serious threat to our society. But it’s a minimal number of people who are going to be impacted, and not the maximum.
Fourthly, have a plan. Think about how you’re going to stay healthy. Think about how you are going to stay in control, in what is a fairly difficult time. Think about how you keep yourself entertained and not getting too bored, moment to moment.
Fifthly, try and create it as an opportunity. What are the things you have always wanted to do, that you’ve never had time to do, that you can now explore.
And lastly, remember, that no-one’s ever, on its own, died as a result of social isolation. We’ve had long periods in human society, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere during winter months, where people actually were very much locked up. They weren’t able to get out. So we are able to cope with it. We have the resilience. The trick, in all of this, is to have a plan – to work to it. Focus on the fact that it is going to end. And that social isolation, on its own, will not be as harmful. It’s more how you deal with the social isolation.
Mental health helplines
If you or someone you know is feeling distressed and/or having suicidal thoughts, see your doctor, phone one of these helplines or click on the links below for online web chat counselling or support. Call 000 if life is in danger.
|Lifeline (24 hours)||13 11 14|
|Kids Helpline (for young people aged 5 to 25 years)||1800 55 1800|
|Beyond Blue Support Service (24 hours)||1300 22 4636|
|MensLine Australia (24 hours)||1300 78 99 78|
|SANE Helpline – mental illness information, support and referral||1800 187 263|
|Suicide Call Back Service (24 hours) – free counselling support||1300 659 467|