To commemorate World Mental Health Day in 2021 we draw on the real-world view of the clinicians and experts working day-to-day in mental health throughout our global network. We ask them to reflect on what has changed during the pandemic and their hopes for the future.
Every year on World Mental Health Day (10 October) it is time to reflect on the work that is being done to bring visibility to mental health issues and to be inspired by the work that is done by others. Whether it be the work of everyday health clinicians on the ‘frontline’ helping patients, or the work of scientists, teachers and business leaders promoting innovation in the field, their stories and insights help up to see the bigger picture.
With mental health centres throughout Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, United States and Australia, the neurocare group asked clinicians from its global network to share their experiences in the field 18 months into the pandemic.
"COVID-19 restrictions really highlighted the importance of perspective and self-compassion on managing mental wellbeing. The loss of social supports, personal freedoms and access to the community have been a negative highlight, primarily in the media.
In my work and personally, the importance of accepting what we do and don’t have control over has come to the fore. Face to face catch ups may not have been possible, but enriching contacts via other mediums have been. Our usual exercise regimes may not have been possible but creating or exploring new ones has been. The power of our attention and perception of our own well-being has never been more clear."
Sarah Mercer Clinical Psychologist neurocare Frenchs Forest NSW, Australia
"In recent months one of the most decisive factors for developing mental health issues - especially in singles - seems to be the experience of isolation during the lockdown and social distancing. Working with my clients I could experience how precious and important belongingness is for us to be mentally healthy.
Understanding this is already an important part of the cure: besides specific therapies for depression, anxiety, sleep disorders etc. being truly connected to someone as well as having a purpose and belonging to a group of people is an absolutely key factor for improved mental health."
"This time can be attributed to both the generalized trauma we experienced with the beginning of the pandemic, both to the restrictive measures to which we have been subjected, which, in some cases, forced us to stay away from our loved ones and, in other cases, they forced us to stay too close and changed our habits.
We see increased discomfort in the elderly population manifesting as symptoms of anxiety and depression, but also cognitive deficits. In the younger population who have lost contact with school and friends, they are finding themselves sharing, often small, confined spaces with their parents. Family crises between spouses and between parents and children seem to be one of the most common factors of psychological distress resulting from this situation.
It is essential to seek the help of experienced mental health professionals who can help us recognize and treat the psychological distress we are subjected to in an appropriate manner and in a short time."
Dr Beatrice Cassoni Specialist in Psychiatry and Psychotherapy neurocare Bologna, Italy
"Over the last year and a half, we have received more referrals for treatment of anxiety and depression. Most people are telling me they feel the stresses of dealing with life during the pandemic are responsible. This includes people who have struggled previously with their mood and those who are addressing symptoms for the first time. This is an opportune time for them to address the symptoms and work therapeutically to develop skills to manage stress. The goal is to enhance resilience so they can move life forward positively during this period as well as prepare for the future."
W. Scott West, M.D. Psychiatrist neurocare Nashville Tennesee, USA
"The last 1-2 years have been quite out of the ordinary for many of us. Never have we in our lives been faced with so many restrictions, lock-downs, restricted freedom to move and travel, social distancing, obliged face-masks and restrictions to even hug our loved ones. These restrictions were not only uncontrollable but also unpredictable with loosened restrictions followed by new and tougher restrictions.
This period reminded me about Seligman’s theory of ‘learned helplessness, which has been proposed as a model where unpredictable and uncontrollable stress can result in depression. In the pharmaceutical industry, this model is actually to test and develop new drugs on their potency as an antidepressant. Looking forward I hope that governments will also do their best to limit the impact of a looming post-COVID mental health crisis and promote resilience by returning freedom to its citizens completely and swiftly, as to make people more optimistic as an antidote to learned helplessness."
Dr Martijn Arns Biological Psychologist and Researcher, Brainclinics and neurocare group The Netherlands
"The COVID-19 pandemic response has highlighted the undeniable importance of two critical human needs, that is the power of face-to-face social connection and day-to-day routine. We have observed the devastating flow on effects from disruptions to these essentials across a range of physiological, psychological, emotional, and behavioural functions. A continued focus on facilitating face to face social supports and upholding the basic daily routines of sleep, diet, exercise, leisure and tasks of focused attention, all in the service of one’s values, is critical to supporting psychological wellbeing."
Steven Wickens Psychologist neurocare East Melbourne Victoria, Australia
"The pandemic has increased mental health awareness but also the gap in our health system. These past 18 months really highlighted the importance of a personalised approach in psychological treatment, but more important preventative psychological intervention to build resilience and self-compassion in the individual. With the increased awareness in both the public and private health sectors, I have faith that a more innovative approach to mental health treatment will be soon available in the future, making it more accessible to everyone."
Zhi On Psychologist, neurocare Balwyn Victoria, Australia