Our Mental Health During COVID-19’s Semi-Lockdown


All is quiet this Easter weekend. Or relatively so. Uptown Kingston is, for some reason, bursting with people dashing up and down in their cars, ahead of the early curfew time of 3:00 p.m. Don’t worry, shoppers – in a couple of days it will be over, and we will actually have our curfew time reduced. You can do without this feverish activity. Stay at home! But then, staying at home has its own pressures, we realize…

How are we all doing mentally? Some of us could be doing better. My mood swings have leveled off a little, although when I wake up in the morning I still wish this was all just a dream. Then when I tune in to the news, reality hits. However, we know we are fortunate and grateful to have a comfortable home and yard – some space around us.

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“Praise and worship” by workers at Bellevue Hospital during the launch of a mental health campaign in October, 2019. (My photo)

The Ministry of Health and Wellness turned its attention to mental health issues late last year, establishing a new helpline (see link below). Much of its concern has been the entrenched stigma that surrounds mental illness. Now, we have the stress, anxiety, and those feelings of uncertainty that threaten to overwhelm us at times during the “lockdown” period of COVID-19. Many people are simply lonely – especially those, young and old, who live alone anyway.

Here are a few tips from the Ministry on keeping yourself emotionally on an even keel during these difficult times. They work well at any time, actually.

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Take Care of Your Mental Health

KINGSTON, Jamaica. Thursday, April 9, 2020: The Ministry of Health and Wellness is encouraging Jamaicans who may be experiencing anxiety or stress out of concern over the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) to contact its mental health line at 888 NEW LIFE (888-639-5433).

“Anxiety and stress are normal responses to a public health challenge of this magnitude. Among other things, COVID-19 has required that people self-quarantine or otherwise physically distance themselves from others. This can be stressful for anyone and in some people can lead to feelings of isolation,” said Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr Kevin Goulbourne.

“We urge Jamaicans to talk about their fears and anxiety. It is amazing how therapeutic it can be to share your feelings and with someone who takes the time to listen. The mental health team at the Ministry is here to listen and to support our Jamaicans through this public health challenge. We therefore welcome those calls,” he added.

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A beautiful quote from Irish poet Seamus Heeney.

It is now more important than ever that Jamaicans take care of their emotional health and there are a number of ways that they can do that from home.

  • Stay in touch with friends and family. Give them a call or reach out to them via social media.
  • Take a break from social media. While social media is a good way to stay in touch with friends and family, the excessive use of social media has been known to fuel anxiety among some persons.
  • Keep a journal. It is always a good idea to have an outlet for self-expression. A journal is a good way to do so.
  • Exercise. Feel free to work up a sweat, increasing, in the process, the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals known as endorphins.
  • Smile. A smile, research has shown, can work wonders in helping to reduce blood pressure while improving your mood and reducing stress.
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A White-winged Dove in our Poui Tree. Our birds’ soothing presence make us feel at home. (My photo)

For more tips on preserving your mental wellness, visit https://www.moh.gov.jm/mental-health/. There is also an available platform for self-expression at: https://www.moh.gov.jm/mental-health/how-to-share-your-story/.

Meanwhile, remember to:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water or clean with an alcohol-based rub;
  • Cover your nose and throat with a tissue when coughing; and
  • Avoid close contact with anyone with a cold or flu-like symptoms.

Also, maintain a physical distance of at least one metre from others when out in public.

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A drawing by a patient at Bellevue Hospital. (My photo)

N.B. There are some more useful tips on coping on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Coronavirus pages – including for parents, people at high risk, and those coming out of quarantine.

 


3 thoughts on “Our Mental Health During COVID-19’s Semi-Lockdown

  1. Great article. The Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network is also offering counseling during this period. Contact Jhanille Brooks 876-569-4192 email jamhan2012@gmail.com

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