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Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak

Published on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Image: An illustration of a woman inside looking out of a win

THE coronavirus outbreak is an anxious time for everybody, so Leicester City Council is responding to people’s worries with information and advice to help everyone manage their mental health.

Government advice to stay at home is vital and necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, but it can be particularly challenging if you already struggle with poor mental health.

Leicester City Council’s assistant mayor for public health, Cllr Vi Dempster, said: “It’s vital that we all stay indoors to help save lives, and that we follow the Government advice on social distancing and self-isolating. But we know that these measures are a challenge for all of us, so everyone needs to pay attention to their mental health at this time, as well as to their physical wellbeing.

“It can be hard if you are worried about family members, too. But there are specialist sources of support that children and teenagers can access, for example, if you think they need someone to talk to.

“It’s only natural to have worries about the future at this time. But it can help to switch off the news, step away from social media and take time out to support your mental wellbeing by focusing on something else for a while – something you enjoy.”

Online resources, telephone support, information and advice are available to help – with more sources of support being set up in the coming days and weeks.

Connecting with others can help to improve and boost our mental health – so arrange a video call, phone call or text chat with friends or family. If you don’t feel able to initiate this, text one trusted friend and ask them if they can arrange to call you instead. It’s okay to let people know you are struggling.

Getting active can also help to boost mood. The city council’s Active Leicester Twitter account has lots of tips and advice on ways to get active indoors – such as taking part in Joe Wicks’ daily PE class on YouTube, trying family-friendly yoga and Pilates classes, or Disney-inspired games and activities from Change4Life, which also offers tips on healthy eating.

Mindfulness can also help. If meditation isn’t for you, just taking time to notice things around you can be surprisingly relaxing – such as birds singing outside. It doesn’t have to be for long. Or you might like to join a virtual choir, and sing with others, using some easy-to-download video conferencing software.

Learning something new – or just reading a new book – can also be helpful, as can giving to others, perhaps by giving your time. Volunteers are needed more than ever at this time, and there are lots of different opportunities available. The city council has teamed up with Voluntary Action Leicestershire to organise volunteering in response to the coronavirus outbreak – visit www.volunteerleicestershire.org.uk/covid-19

If you, your child or your teenager needs information and advice from a school nurse or a health visitor, there’s a secure and confidential text messaging service you can use called Chat Health. Talk to a nurse by texting 07520 615381 in Leicester or 07520 615382 in Leicestershire and Rutland. You’ll get a response back within 24 hours.

Local health websites are also being updated to offer more online resources. Parents of under-fives can find out more at www.healthforunder5s.co.uk, with advice for five to 12-year-olds at www.healthforkids.co.uk, and for teenagers at www.healthforteens.co.uk/ Resources will include workbooks to go through with children, covering why they may be feeling worried or angry, and how to acknowledge and manage these emotions.

Cllr Dempster added: “It’s really important to stick to a routine if you can, and some people find making lists useful, so that you can tick off tasks you have completed at the end of each day. Routine is especially important for children.

“Be kind to yourself – don’t feel bad if you have a ‘off-day’ as this happens to us all. If you feel low, then call a trusted friend or practise some relaxation techniques – such as the breathing exercises outlined by the NHS. And remember that you’re not alone.”

If you are struggling with your mental health, call The Samaritans on 116 123 or Life Links on 0800 0234 575.

In Leicester and Leicestershire, a mental health hub, offering online resources and help, is currently being set up. More details will be available soon and posted at leicester.gov.uk when available:

leicester.gov.uk/health-and-social-care/public-health/improve-your-health/mental-health/coronavirus-and-our-mental-wellbeing/

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