The impact of coronavirus on mental health: Scarborough woman says 'I'm terrified of having to self-isolate'

People in Yorkshire have opened up on how the coronavirus spread is affecting their mental health.

By Steve Bambridge
Saturday, 14th March 2020, 9:53 am
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 3:40 pm

Anxiety over getting and spreading the disease, fears over having to self-isolate and increased stress over cancelled hospital appointments are just some of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting people's mental health.

There are also worries for the elderly, and how self-isolating may worsen the loneliness epidemic.

Hannah Green, from Scarborough, said: "I'm terrified. Not of getting ill, but if I have to self-isolate for two weeks. That will ruin my mental health.

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"I'm worried about how the effect of the lack of human interaction, not being able to go to counselling and not being able to exercise or do the things I enjoy.

"Plus, I might not be able to access my medication if I can't leave the house or if pharmacies close.

"Luckily, I think we will be allowed phone contact with the staff at our local support group, Scarborough Survivors, if they have to shut."

One woman, who did not want to give her name, said her stress levels were high after the announcement on Thursday that hospitals may have to cancel operations to ease pressures on the NHS.

The woman said she had recently received news she may have breast cancer, and was terrified the surgery she would need at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield may be delayed.

She said: "I'm likely to need breast cancer surgery in the near future. I get my results next week but they are pretty sure it's cancer.

"If that's the case, I'm terrified the surgery will be delayed if the virus really takes hold. At this time, the hospital says it's unlikely to cancel cancer surgery but there are no guarantees."

The men's mental health support group Andy's Man Club announced on Friday that it was postponing all meetings nationally for three weeks to combat the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement, the group said it would continue to support its users by doing Facebook live broadcasts.

One man, who attends the group's Leeds branch but does not want to be named, said: "I've only lately found the courage to go to Andy's Man Club. More recently, I've been going to football matches which also really helps me.

"Now that's all changed and I feel like these things have been taken away from me. I acknowledge that the public health situation must be dealt with, but it now leaves me with a massive void in my life, which worries me greatly given the great strides I’d made recently."

"Already-stretched mental health services will be almost certainly pushed to tipping point by the number of MH sufferers for whom these measures will be a bridge too far," he added.

Mental health charity Mind has issued advice for anxiety and how to avoid feeling trapped if you are staying at home.

The charity said anyone feeling claustrophobic could "open the windows to let in fresh air", "spend time sitting on your doorstep or in the garden" and "regularly change the rooms you spend time in".

British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy counsellor Elizabeth Turp said: "The way that [coronavirus] is being portrayed is connecting with the fear centre in our brain; our underlying fears. Nobody wants to feel more under threat of death.

She added: “Some people can be quite paralysed by this anxiety and may want to completely stop interacting with the news. But for others this can be quite difficult. They want to know what’s going on. Not knowing makes it worse."

“It’s very normal to feel scared about something like this," she continued. “Allow yourself to worry, put it down in writing in a notebook, and then put that away. Let it go."

Anyone who is struggling can contact the Samaritans helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123.