Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Protect your mental well-being during lockdowns, appeals counselling psychologist

Published:Thursday | April 8, 2021 | 11:40 AM
Director of the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network, Jhanille Brooks. She stated that the impact of lockdowns goes beyond the physical, noting that one year into the pandemic, there is still an uptick in the number of persons seeking counselling services - Contributed photo.

Director of the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network, Jhanille Brooks, is appealing to persons experiencing mental strain as a result of COVID-19 restrictions and the lockdowns to seek out coping mechanisms to help with their well-being.

Brooks, a licensed associate counselling psychologist, stated that the impact of lockdowns goes beyond the physical, noting that one year into the pandemic, there is still an uptick in the number of persons seeking counselling services.

“Many persons are still anxious about contracting the illness or passing it on to their loved ones. Others are feeling exhausted from having to constantly pivot in response to the various changes and restrictions. For quite a number of persons, the quiet and stillness of the lockdown have weighed heavily on the mind,” she said.

“We are used to having various activities of daily living to distract us from ourselves and our problems. The lockdown has brought these issues into sharp focus and caused us to have to confront the demons we had locked away in our closets,” Brooks continued.

Among the most significant measures implemented by the government to help curtail further outbreaks of COVID-19 were community quarantines, for weeks at a time.

And amid a spike, the government implemented three weekends of lockdowns, with the last one being this weekend.

With the government’s threats of even tighter measures, residents of communities in St Thomas that suffered extended state-ordered lockdowns last year are raising familiar concerns about the impact of days-long isolation, especially on the mental health of those affected.

“It’s hard because you have people weh nuh have nothing. Not everyone has money to go supermarket and police deh up and down ah ensure that all corner shops are closed. What about people weh poor? I think lockdown a one ah the worse things weh could ever happen to poor people,” said Angela Johnson, a resident of Bamboo River.

She continued, “Things like this will affect your mind because people a think where the next meal aguh come from. My boyfriend have to go sea or river to see if him can get two fish and him cyah leave either so if coronavirus nuh kill we, hunger will so we aguh dead anyways.”

Describing as disorganised and borderline inhumane the experience of community-level quarantine endured in 2020, one resident of Albion in the parish shared that she suffered anxiety issues.

“The unpredictability, lack of communication, and disorganisation of the quarantine made me uncertain daily. Like when will they talk to us? Is it my immediate neighbour who has COVID-19? How many persons in my community have it? I also became withdrawn…being separated from the world, I didn't feel like socialising or going anywhere after that. For some of my neighbours, it was difficult. They worried about their income and businesses...some of the seniors felt left in the dark as they were oblivious to what's happening and didn't know what to do, so lots of frustration,” she said.

Over in Seaforth, one of the communities that were also under lockdown, one resident shared that though she didn’t mind the period, those around her suffered.

The resident said, “There are those who find their peace on the street. I remember someone was complaining to me that they feel like they’re going crazy because it felt like prison like you are trapped. And if you go on the road at all you have to be looking if authorities were coming and that feeling of imprisonment can actually lead to depression since you are used to moving freely, going and coming when you want.”

Among ways persons can maintain a stable mind during these periods, Brooks shared:

· Seek professional counselling.

· While practicing physical distancing, remain connected with your loved ones, we all need social connections.

· Reconnect with a spiritual source.

· Exercise and physical activity.

· Make lifestyle changes such as getting proper rest and eating a balanced diet.

· Spend some quiet time alone.

· Learn mindfulness meditation.

· Feed your mind with positivity and some.

· Humour.

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