While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a main conversational topic since the start of 2020, the focus is on the staggering economic impact brought by this pandemic. Many still do not realise that COVID-19 has taken a toll on people’s mental well-being.
In March 2020, the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) 24-hour Hotline attended to 3,826 calls – an increase of more than 22% in comparison to the same period in 2019. That averages to at least 123 calls daily.
The loss of control in any situation may lead to an increased sense of uncertainty and anxiety. Fears about potentially being exposed to the virus, becoming an asymptomatic carrier, or passing it unknowingly to loved ones are common. This is similar to the economic impact has on many, especially those working in the gig economy. It affected their finances, and people are worried about the lasting impact this pandemic will have on their job and income stability.
COVID-19 has changed our collective sense of normalcy – we are no longer able to head to places we frequent, neither can we visit our loved ones at their home. While most of us are adjusting to the temporary safe distancing measures, we are unsure when our life will return to a new normal and what that would entail. This uncertainty may fuel anxiety, disrupt sleep, increase irritability, and even affect mood fluctuations.
A worrying consequence of a prolonged circuit breaker measure could also put the vulnerable at a higher risk of contemplating suicide.
Social support is even more crucial now. Some of us may experience prolonged isolation, others with over-crowded homes, and for some, they may be facing strained relationships within the same household. The current living condition may further exacerbate one’s mental health during this period.
A worrying consequence of a prolonged circuit breaker measure could also put the vulnerable at a higher risk of contemplating suicide. Several factors that could potentially lead to this heightened risk include social isolation, economic stress, reduced accessibility to mental health services and less access to community and religious support.
However, this does not signify that suicides are inevitable. Instead, it should serve as a reminder to us on the need to be cognizant of what we can do to help cushion the impact of others, especially the vulnerable who have been severely affected.
There are several ways to keep oneself occupied and engaged. This can be a form of self-care. Engaging in activities that help reinforce human connection through virtual means such as video calls, virtual group exercises, running or yoga can replicate the routine of a normal day.
It is also worth trying new things when you are feeling overwhelmed and alone even though it may take up a lot of your strength. You can start with small activities that you may feel comfortable with. It can be as simple as taking a few deep breaths when you smell your neighbour frying some garlic, or the scent of the curry filling your house. Getting out of your flat and taking a walk around the block, or heading to the coffeeshop nearby can help create opportunities to reestablish a connection to your community.
Take some time to step outside and catch a little breather
In this pandemic, it is also an ideal time to make a call and check in with friends and family members whom you may not have contacted for a long time. Alternatively, by sending a care package of a slice of cake or a cup of drink can provide them with a much needed comfort.
Let’s remind ourselves that we need to be socially close even though we are physically apart.
The contributor is an Assistant Manager at the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS).