Consultant Psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Hospital, Dr. Joy Sue, is calling on persons to pay attention to their mental health, as their interaction and movements have been restricted to combat the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 illness.
In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service, Dr. Sue said it was important to acknowledge that everyone was experiencing limitations to movement.
Persons who tested positive for COVID-19 have been confined to an isolation facility, where they are not allowed to receive visitors. While those who might have been exposed to the virus have been placed on quarantine, either in a health facility or in their homes.
Movement has also been restricted for all residents due to the Emergency Management (COVID-19) Curfew (No.2) Directive, 2020.
Dr. Sue stressed that now, more than ever, persons must take good care of their mental health. She suggested a variety of coping mechanisms which could help everyone to survive the curfew, quarantine and isolation. Here are her recommendations:
- Develop your own routine for self-care.
It is good to develop a series of activities that will give a sense of purpose to your days.
- Stay connected socially.
This is extremely important, especially for persons in isolation. She advised that regular communication should be maintained with family, friends and the outside world through smart phones and other devices to combat feelings of loneliness or boredom. Dr. Sue also suggested that persons in isolation should interact with fellow patients.
- Do relaxation activities daily.
Dr. Sue’s top suggestions were listening to music, meditation and light exercise. She said meditation for short periods along with deep breathing were effective in reducing stress. In relation to exercise, she noted that it strengthens the immune system and releases endorphins, which help to reduce anxiety. Persons may not be able to take long walks or workout at the gym, but she suggested jogging in place, dancing, yoga and stretches instead.
- Reduce time spent dwelling on negative thoughts.
There may be a tendency for negative thoughts to enter the mind, but persons should practise focusing on the positive things in their lives. She said repeating a positive phrase to oneself may be helpful. Persons also need to recognize their own limits. If watching news reports or reading articles about COVID-19 cause greater anxiety, it may be best to take a break, and where necessary, just get updates from the medical professionals.
- Express creativity.
This might include art, writing, dancing or singing, whether alone or with others within the household or facility.
- Offer support to others.
This, she said, may add to a sense of purpose and pride, and relieve anxiety, particularly for relatives of persons in isolation.
Dr. Sue encouraged relatives to have positive conversations with patients by sharing jokes and updates. Laughter, she said, was healthy and alleviates anxiety on both sides.
Dr. Sue emphasized that if persons were really struggling to cope emotionally, regardless of whether they were in curfew, quarantine or isolation, they must seek professional intervention.
She disclosed that counselling was being provided for persons in quarantine and isolation by psychiatrists attached to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the Psychiatric Hospital. Healthcare professionals also refer persons who appear to be having mental health challenges.
The public may seek psychological support by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 536-4500; the call will be directed to a mental health professional.