‘It is a difficult time for everyone’

Sadag has been inundated with calls from people who are struggling mentally with the lockdown.

As the country reaches the fourth week of lockdown, many people, especially those with mental illnesses, will be feeling more psychological strain, but there are things you can do to help you cope.

While routines and schedules are good, clinical psychologist Charity Mkone, from the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), says too much over-planning can create extra pressure, especially for those with mental-health issues.

Take it one day at a time, and don’t over-plan your daily schedules, she says.

It’s a difficult time for people with mental-health issues, as Covid-19 has created a lot of uncertainty that can aggravate anxiety, Ms Mkone says.

It is important to know what is in and out of your control, she says. And the number of infections, consequences of the lockdown and the duration of the lockdown are beyond it.

The lockdown can trigger people with mental-health issues especially those prone to depression as they are now “isolating” and not in social settings or enjoying activities.

People with anxiety disorders might be worrying even more, she says, and fears about germs, hand-washing and sanitising surfaces will be hard for those with obsessive compulsive disorder.

“This can be difficult for some people to deal with and a trigger because of the fear or threat of the virus.”

Remember, the situation is not forever, she says, even though there is no telling when it will end.

“It is a difficult time for everyone, and although it may feel personal, we are in this together, and it is affecting everyone globally. It is not geared towards anyone in particular, and all we can do now is to keep safe and to listen and obey government’s regulations for the lockdown.”

Ms Mkone says it is important to have down time to switch off from the news and reports about Covid-19.

Clinical psychologist Viwe Dweba advises living each day intentionally to counter anxiety brought on by the unusual nature of the lockdown – get out of bed, make your bed and get out of your pyjamas, and stick to a routine by continuing to work from home, if possible.

Take care of your body, she says, because physical health is linked to mental health.

“Use this time to get creative with moving your body. Staying indoors limits movement significantly so physical exercise is important.”

Your surroundings can also affect your mood. “Keep your home clean and do laundry. Sunshine is a natural mood lifter, so open your windows and your curtains.”

Maintaining relationships is also important, especially those living alone. Ms Dweba recommends talking to friends regularly through video calls, messaging and phone calls.

Helpline numbers: Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0800 567 567 Abuse Helpline (24 hours): 0800 12 13 14 Reddy’s Mental Health Helpline: 0800 21 22 23 Pharmadynamics Trauma and Police Helpline: 0800 20 50 26 ADHD Helpline: 0800 55 44 33 HDI- It Starts Today Helpline: 0800 33 33 77 Adcock Depression and Anxiety Helpline: 0800 70 80 90 Destiny Helpline: 0800 41 42 43 UCT Helpline (24 hours): 0800 24 25 26 UP Careline (24 hours): 0800 747 747 PND Helpline: 082 882 0072 UCT Staff Helpline: 0800 171 171 UWC (afterhours): 0800 222 333 Discovery Medical Students Helpline (24 hours): 0800 323 323 TUT: 0800 687 888 Cipla Mental Health Helpline (24 hours): 0800 456 789 Cipla WhatsApp Chat Line: 076 882 2775. Visit www.sadag.org