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Being ordered to stay at home can have quite the effect on mental health, even if you don’t notice it. Tamsyn Jantjies asked Peter Visagie, an educational psychologist, what the effects the lockdown can have on one’s mental state and what to do to keep positivity flowing.

1. How can the lockdown affect people suffering from mental health difficulties, from anxiety to bipolar and maybe even schizophrenia and even those who have not been previously diagnosed with anything?

• Increase in anxiety levels

• Emotionally unstable

• Feel unsafe and uncertain about the future

• Feel more depressed and seek for more emotional support

• Become more irritable and sensitive

• Become claustrophobic because of the limited space they have to live in

• Maybe want to increase their medication or even over medicate not to experience the impact of the lockdown

2. And for those that have not been diagnosed with any mental issues how can it negatively influences their day to day moods?

• Increased levels of fear, anger and anxiety

• Fluctuation in mood patterns

• Feeling of powerlessness as if we can do nothing for yourself

• Become over sensitive for safety and health

• Insomnia – disturbed sleeping patterns

• Disturbed eating patterns

• Collect items like food and medication that is not needed

• Complain frequently about unnecessary things

• Negative frame of mind and tend to isolate themselves

3. What can people do in general to make sure their mental health does not suffer or deteriorate during this time?

• Accept what you can’t control

• Become mindful of the current conditions and respond in a positive way

• Evaluate information and share what is useful for the family and learning

• Have family talks about the current conditions and use it as a learning opportunity

• Offer help to others

• Be mindful of my your own emotions

• Start a gratitude journal to explain what you and as a family have to use during this time

• Parental guidance is essential to keep children informed about the current situation

• Play games – enforce more family activities

4. Should someone suffer some kind of breakdown during the lockdown what steps do you suggest they follow?

• Ensure that you have all the contact details of emergency services and your immediate support system

• Seek help

• Immediately contact your medical practitioner telephonically

• Public Health Sector – Provincial Hospitals, Clinics in your immediate area and Day Hospitals

• Liaise with your Psychologist/Psychiatrist/Psychiatric Clinic in the area

• Call COVID-19 Hotline: 0800 029 999

• Liaise with your spiritual community - build a spiritual support system

• National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD): 082 883 9920

5. Can you offer any coping mechanisms that would ease the stress of having to stay indoors daily?

• Exercise

• Change your routine

• Plan your day

• Do fun stuff

• Do daily chores

• Offer help to others

• Utilise your strengths and talents to support others in need

• Keep a happy emotional state and spread hope

• Be open to new adventures

• Be positive and stay positive

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