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Maintaining good mental health during Coronavirus lockdown

22nd May 2020
Maintaining good mental health during Coronavirus lockdown

(Photo credit: Natasha Spencer/Pexels Commons)

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari

Coronavirus pandemic is having a “profound and pervasive impact” on global mental health, warned 24 specialists in a paper published by the Lancet Psychiatry; one author noted, “increased social isolation, loneliness, health anxiety, stress and an economic downturn are a perfect storm to harm people’s mental health and wellbeing.”

SANE, a mental health charity, urged psychiatric services to be on “red alert” for a wave of patients struggling to deal with self-isolation.

The pandemic is wreaking havoc on the mental wellbeing of health professionals. A YouGov poll of almost 1,000 UK healthcare professionals carried out for the think tank IPPR recently found that Covid-19 has pushed more than one in five healthcare workers to be more likely to leave their role after the pandemic.

This will have a huge impact on the National Health Service (NHS) and the wider population.

Our mental health and emotional well-being are as vital as our physical health. A House of Commons Library briefing on mental health policy found that around one in four people in the UK suffer from a mental health problem each year. Anxiety and depression are the most common conditions.
Good mental health is as vital as good physical health.

With good mental health, we feel better and can manage a range of positive and negative emotions. We carry out our daily tasks effectively; we eat well, sleep well and exercise well; we take part in social activities normally and are able to build or manage healthy relationships with others.

Poor mental health is linked to multi-faceted reasons such as abuse, neglect, social isolation, stress, bereavement, experiencing trauma or violence, poor health, substance misuse, etc.; we often feel low, numb, irritable or even worthless. We may suffer from eating disorders and erratic sleeping pattern.

Some withdraw from or feel disinterested in family, friends and even life; some think about self-harming or having suicidal thoughts whilst others sadly carry it out.

Mental health affects people of all ages. Life events, stress or difficult moments can trigger negative emotions and if not addressed promptly and properly, can spiral into mental illness. Parents who suffer from anxiety or certain mental health condition should not hide this from their children for fear of upsetting them.

Being upfront and talking about the issue may help them feel safe. They should obviously seek help from professionals. It is vital to recognise that no parent is perfect and that mental health should not be treated as a taboo subject – all of us can be susceptible.


Mental health in young people


It can sometimes be difficult for parents to distinguish between what could be a normal teenage mood swing or a mental health issue.

A report from the independent Mental Health Taskforce to the NHS in 2016 found that half of all mental health problems had been established by the age of 14; rising to 75 per cent by the age of 24. With one in ten children aged 5 – 6 having a diagnosable problem. It is crucial to intervene early if parents or carers suspect a mental health issue.

The report found that children from low-income families are at the highest risk and often face the most difficult odds in life. They are more likely to have conduct disorders such as aggressive behaviours.

They are twice as likely to leave school without any qualifications, three times more likely to become teenage parents, four times more likely to become dependent on drugs and 20 times more likely to be in prison.

Although NHS’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services work with those who have difficulties with their emotional or behavioural wellbeing, many in reality do not get the right support at the right time.

In this pandemic lockdown, when our daily routines are in disarray, mental health issues can surface in many ways. Most of us may go through feelings of uncertainty, worry and fear.

It is critical to find ways to look after our overall wellbeing by talking to others, doing things we enjoy, keeping our minds active, taking time to relax and looking after our sleep. We should avoid getting sucked into the media frenzy; our news should only be from trusted sources. We should stay connected with our friends and family.


Islamic guidance on good mental health


The experience and wisdom found in religious traditions is no longer a taboo; meditation is now increasingly being used for therapeutic treatment for both physical and mental illnesses.

Spirituality brings about positive emotional and mental well-being and often comes with optimism, gratitude and resilience. Some practitioners in clinical psychology and psychiatry do now recognise the role of spirituality in the prevention and treatment of mental illness.

Islam, as a middle way religion, heals the human soul, diminishes anxiety and brings emotional balance in a believer. Developing spirituality goes in tandem with harnessing material resources and their ethical use. Inner peace is considered by believers as more important than material achievements. This is probably one of the reasons why poorer but more religious countries have lower suicide rates.

Islam’s teachings to acquire sakinah (contented mind) through tawakkul (reliance on Allah) in any situation and sabr (patience) in any affliction keep a Muslim mind peaceful.

The five daily prayers align believers’ tongues, limbs and spirit in complete accord. The month-long fasting has also wondrous effects on their inner peace and self-restraint. Islamic spirituality can thus be used for the mental wellbeing of Muslims who believe the Qur’an is the word of Allah.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is an educationalist, parenting consultant and author.

One Response to “Maintaining good mental health during Coronavirus lockdown”

mohammed zamanMay 29, 2020

A good timely guiding piece on Mental health particularly during the present lockdown. The mental health very much depends on the physical health —both of which are nourished well by Spiritual devotion. The role of religion can not over-emphasized especially that of Islam which teaches us to have patience and to live a well -balanced life in piety and contentment without being overwhelmed by the periodical visitation of any calamity such as the Covid 19. No doubt the present lockdown is really harmful for mental health for many but it has some positives such as looking leisurely at ourselves and having for us some rare quality times which are conducive to sustain and enhance our mental health aided by healthy activities, physical exercise and regular religious prayers to Almighty Allah.


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