Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
The infectious pandemic has been a testing time for humanity and has affected individuals in ways scarily imaginable just four months ago. From increased loneliness due to social isolation, to economic anxiety, many of us worry about what the disease means for ourselves and our loved ones.
There are many things we can do to support our wellbeing during these unprecedented times. Just a few weeks ago, The Broad’s Megan Kenyon provided some tips to help with stress including maintaining a balanced routine. And since retreating into lockdown, the government has potted an additional £5 million to specialist charities.
Despite the guidance, in our hospitals and care homes, many of our key workers feel like they are not equipped to deal with the crisis. Patients have been kept waiting to receive specialist assistance, acute units have closed new admissions, and adolescents and young people are feeling overwhelmed due to school closures (for some children, their first port of call).
There is a multitude of factors, but the challenge facing society is stark. So much so, that an article published in The Lancet by two dozen scientists has called for greater research into the long-term effects this crisis, on our mental health.
The demand for professional services, for assistance in coping with our mental health, is startling. In normal circumstances, if we were feeling stressed, down or anxious, many of us would seek company and spend time with friends and loved ones. But in these extraordinary circumstances, the dilemma remains as to what other avenues there are.
For all of the negative press it garners (specifically social media), technology could be a solution. Not claiming to be the be-all and end-all, there are some technological innovations that are already proving to be effective at bringing us together and supporting us in a multitude of ways.
Technology can help us keep in touch with our family and friends. Whether that is making video calls or have fun with virtual pub quizzes on Zoom or texts to keep up with our ‘social’ lives.
Technology is also being utilised as a support tool for mental health in these tumultuous times. There is a plethora of applications designed to track people’s moods. Flow, free to download, markets itself as a “depression app” because it helps its users mitigate symptoms by structuring daily routines for them – in areas like nutrition.
Thrive is another brilliant example. Developed by the National Health Service (NHS), Thrive is a medtech solution teaching ways to control depression, anxiety and other related conditions.
Then we come to the advancement of telehealth, arguably the most important of these developments. MyOnlineTherapy and Livi are just two services that have helped some patients connect with therapists, doctors, and psychologists during the crisis. Through these apps, professionals have been able to advise people on what to – all from the comfort of home.
That being said, we must acknowledge that these platforms do remain inaccessible for certain groups of people, particularly the elderly. And money continues to be a barrier to apps and technologies. All things considered, effective support is there, and digital health platforms are committed to helping people stay resilient despite the negative coverage. Whether you are on the frontline or are following the somewhat lonely social distancing guidelines, everyone deserves the right to effective mental health support for a healthy mind.
Right now, many of us are feeling the dejection that has been brought about; the loss of loved ones, job precarity, and long-distance relationships. But in time, by coping with support available, often at the click of a button, we will be able to get through now and enjoy the beauty of life once again.