The World Health Organisation published guidance on Covid-19 and mental health. The link to the full document is here but I thought it would be useful to provide a simpler summary which I have copied below and which is attached as a PDF. In my summary I have not included the elements specifically related to health care workers.
Covid-19: how to look after your mental health
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised that the spread of Covid-19, and the response measures being put in place, are creating a lot of stress among people, and has come up with some advice on how to manage this for both you and those close to you. Exactly how you act on these will depend on your circumstances and your communities, but they should provide a starting point for thinking about what you can do.
The full guide (https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/mental-health-considerations.pdf) is quite long and includes advice for health care workers, so I have summarised some of the main points here.
- The virus is affecting people from many countries – it is not attached to any one ethnicity or nationality. We know that the onset of the virus has led to some people being attacked and insulted because of where they come from. It is important to be empathetic to anyone affected, in and from any country. Nobody affected has done anything wrong.
- Remember that the vast majority of people who are affected go on to make a full recovery, and their life will go on with their jobs, families and loved ones. Once they are recovered they cannot transmit the virus.
- News reports can be very worrying, as can ill-informed information sources. Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed; focus on getting information that will allow you to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself – for instance from the WHO (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) or NHS (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/?fbclid=IwAR20eLC0Y3pGeiYSAXCfGlEpvDS5UgdNsTcPLEHlw-r942_bYzFCeOwHixw) websites. These can help you tell facts from rumours.
- As well as protecting yourself be supportive to others when they need it, either because they are affected by the virus itself or by the control measures that may be introduced.
- Listen to the experiences of those who have been affected or who have supported those affected and who are willing to share their experience.
- Children may be especially anxious. Help them find positive ways to express fear and sadness. Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
- Avoid separating children and their caregivers as much as possible. If a child needs to be separated from his/her primary caregiver, make sure they receive appropriate care and that regular contact with parents and caregivers is maintained (e.g., by phone, social media depending on the age of the child).
- Try to keep familiar routines in daily life as much as possible, especially if children are confined to home.
- In times of stress, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents so discuss this with them. If your children have concerns, addressing those together may ease their anxiety. Children will observe adults’ behaviors and emotions for cues on how to manage their own emotions during difficult times.
Supporting older adults
- Older adults, especially in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated, and withdrawn. Provide practical and emotional support through informal networks (families) and health professionals.
- Share simple facts about what is going on and give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words older people with/without cognitive impairment can understand. Repeat the information whenever necessary. It may also be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures.
- Encourage older adults with expertise, experiences and strengths to volunteer in community efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak (for example the well/healthy retired older population can provide peer support, neighbour checking, and childcare for medical personnel that are still working).
Supporting people in isolation
- Stay connected and maintain your social networks. Try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines. If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via e-mail, social media, video conference and telephone.
- Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food. Keep things in perspective.