Sunday Independent: ‘Don’t allow panic and stress to take hold’
Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Miriam Kennedy speaks with the Sunday Independent about how the uncertainty of COVID and the stress of “Lockdown 2.0” has created a crisis in mental health, with services now busier than ever.
Dr Kennedy, Consultant Psychiatrist in General Adult/Old Age Psychiatry with Highfield Healthcare, details the increases she is seeing in her service in presentations of anxiety, depression and even paranoia. Read a selection of excerpts below, or see the full article here (behind a paywall).
The novelty of the first lockdown, and with it the collective action of the public in facing restrictions, all with with the reasonable expectation that there was an end in sight, seems to have worn off with the introduction of further lockdown measures this Autumn:
“It is true that the first lockdown was easier for us to deal with. It came suddenly and was a shock. But we all came together collectively. We pulled together. At that stage, we thought it would be for just a short period of time and there was end in sight. But that’s not what happened,” says Dr Miriam Kennedy of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and Consultant Psychiatrist in General Adult/Old Age Psychiatry with Highfield Healthcare.
“We don’t know how Christmas will be, or what will happen next year. And this uncertainty right now is very stressful. People were able to find a lot more positives during the first lockdown. The weather made a big difference to a lot of people. This is a stressful time for us all, but it really puts a lot more pressure on people already struggling.”
According to Dr Kennedy, the number of people seeking medical help for distress is increasing “by the day”:
“There’s been a big increase in outpatient and inpatient referrals. We are seeing some very different presentations. We’re seeing plenty of people presenting with first-time psychosis episodes. For older people in particular, the isolation is leading to an increase in paranoia. Older people are often dealing with physical problems, so Covid is an extra cause of anxiety. A lot of so-called fake news about Covid doesn’t help the situation. Fear drives stress.”
Those who are predisposed to mental illness or have had mental health problems in the past are particularly at risk during this time:
“There have been a lot of relapses. People who were discharged and doing well. But a lot of their recovery plans were based around social interaction, and a lot of that is gone,” explain Dr Kennedy. “Being alone and isolated, it exacerbates all of our problems. Our ‘new normal’ really should not involve a third lockdown in my view. Or if there is, there really needs to be a look at extending people’s support bubbles in a safe way. Anxiety is really crippling people at the moment.”