Guardian Mental Health

This page shows the latest items from the Guardian Mental Health newsfeed.

Monthly poll seeks to gauge mental health of UK under coronavirus

Charity says many are at risk of stress over debt, job insecurity and infection anxiety

A mental health charity has teamed up with academic institutions across the UK to monitor the psychological wellbeing of the nation as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps around the world.

They will conduct monthly polls of Britons living under lockdown and any measures that followso that emerging mental health problems are spotted early on and interventions put in place.

Related: Tell us: have you been affected by the coronavirus?

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29 March 2020, 4:12 pm

Kayleigh Llewellyn on In My Skin: ‘I lived in fear of kids finding out about mum’

The TV drama’s creator was surviving on charity. Then she turned her troubled Cardiff childhood into a rollercoaster ride through school crushes, sexuality – and bipolar disorder

‘Growing up,” says Kayleigh Llewellyn, “my mum had bipolar disorder type one. So quite severe. The love you have for your mother or father is so deep-seated, there’s a contradiction: you love the person, but you also feel ashamed of them, because you’re a teenager and you don’t know any better.”

Llewellyn has poured this experience into In My Skin, an emotional rollercoaster of a TV drama about Bethan, a Welsh teenager coming of age and living a double life as she negotiates mental illness, friendships and her sexuality. Bethan’s mother Trina has bipolar disorder and is sectioned in a psychiatric ward. In an early episode, Trina says something so horrible to Bethan that I gasped out loud in my living room. At other times, the sympathy I feel for her has me weeping. But there are plenty of laughs along the way.

Within an hour of sending the pitch, I thought: ‘Oh my God, I’ve exposed myself too much’

We wanted to recreate the Wales we knew: you can be on a grotty street, but the vista around you is beautiful hills

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29 March 2020, 3:00 pm

Birds, buds and bright days: how spring can make us healthier and happier

Longer, lighter days can help us banish old habits, sleep better and improve our mental health, even during the lockdown

Thank goodness that, in this time of crisis, it is now spring. In the northern hemisphere, at least, we can say hello to green shoots, flowers, bumblebees and butterflies. Finally, the clocks have gone back to British Summer Time. We’ve lost an hour of sleep, but hello, light.

The greatest hope for the new season this year is that better weather will start to make it harder for coronavirus to spread. And for those lucky enough to still have their health, spring can provide other consolations. Its strong sense of a new beginning nudges our outlook and actions in welcome ways. Katherine Milkman, a behavioural scientist at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied the phenomenon and found that there is more to spring cleaning than the sunlight suddenly showing up cobwebs and window smears. “The start of spring generally makes us feel more motivated – it’s a so-called ‘fresh start date’,” she says. As such, it makes us feel less connected to the past. “That disconnect gives us a sense that whatever we messed up on previously, we can get right now. Maybe the old you failed to quit smoking or start a lasting exercise routine, but the new you can do it.”

Related: Will spring slow spread of coronavirus in northern hemisphere?

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29 March 2020, 2:00 pm

Australian government pumps $1bn into health and family violence services as coronavirus spreads

Telehealth, mental health and national domestic violence initiative to receive major boosts as economic effects of Covid-19 intensify

The Morrison government will expand funding for telehealth, domestic violence support and mental health services, as well as boosting the emergency relief delivered through charities and community organisations, as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Australia passes 3,600 and the national death toll stands at 14.

The government announced on Sunday morning that it is allocating more than $1bn to a range of support services, including $669m to expand Medicare-subsidised telehealth services and $150m under the national domestic violence initiative. The government says there has been a surge in the number of Google searches looking for support services for domestic violence during the pandemic.

Related: ‘Covid-19 will slam the door shut’: Australia’s family services brace for domestic violence spike

Related: Coronavirus gets personal: crying in the streets as Australian jobs vanish and lives change forever

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28 March 2020, 10:11 pm

'Focus on the things you can control': how to cope with radical uncertainty | Oliver Burkeman

We aren’t as powerless as the coronavirus pandemic makes us feel. This is how to stay calm, one Post-it at a time

In 1939, in a sermon preached at Oxford University in the midst of a different global crisis, CS Lewis made a distinction that’s worth revisiting today. It wasn’t the case, he pointed out, that the outbreak of war had rendered human life suddenly fragile; rather, it was that people were suddenly realising it always had been. “The war creates no absolutely new situation,” Lewis said. “It simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we can no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice… We are mistaken when we compare war with ‘normal life’. Life has never been normal.”

In this time of acute collective anxiety, this sort of insight might not bring much peace of mind on its own. But it is a crucial first step, because it suggests that something about our gut-churning feelings of helplessness – the sense that we’re facing an absolutely horrible, unprecedented emergency, which we’ll surely lack the personal resilience to cope with – isn’t wholly accurate. And it implies that we might be much better than we think at dealing with radical uncertainty – because in fact, every hour of every day, we already do.

I recommend the ‘shaking practice’ which has the added benefit of being so ridiculous as to be incompatible with misery

Related: Silver linings: how to stay positive during the coronavirus crisis

The meditation teacher Jack Kornfield explores Buddhist paths to peace of mind amid the pandemic in a Tim Ferriss Show podcast: tim.blog/podcast

Ten Percent Happier, a podcast and meditation app, has a free sanity guide: tenpercent.com/coronavirussanityguide

The Insight Timer app offers a vast collection of free guided meditations for anxiety, stress and much more: insighttimer.com

Andrew Weil demonstrates a speedy intervention for bodily calm, the 4-7-8 breathing technique, on his website: drweil.com

Three Jungian analysts discuss the deeper meanings and unexpected opportunities of the coronavirus outbreak in their podcast, thisjungianlife.com

The Unwinding Anxiety app, developed by American psychiatric researcher Judson Brewer, adapts traditional mindfulness practices to target the modern epidemic of anxiety: unwindinganxiety.com.

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28 March 2020, 12:00 pm

Lockdown living: how Europeans are avoiding going stir crazy

People across Europe are finding increasingly inventive ways to protect themselves against the psychological risks of isolation

In Italy they are singing and sharing recipes. In France, humour is saving the day. In Spain, communal staircases have become the new running tracks, and in Germany, ordinarily disorderly hackers are busy coding corona-busting apps.

As hundreds of millions of Europeans languish in lockdown, people are finding increasingly inventive ways to keep themselves entertained – and to counter what the continent’s psychologists warning are the very real risks of confinement.

It’s about knowing this isn’t an individual and isolated suffering, but a collective suffering.

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28 March 2020, 9:00 am

A letter to… my psychiatrist, who exploits me

‘You were thrilled by my first expensive gift and your joy made me happy’: the letter you always wanted to write

I sought your help 15 years ago when I was desperate: depressed, suicidal and helpless. I couldn’t take the pain any more and, after seeing many psychiatrists and therapists without improvement, I arranged to see you.

Your therapeutic style was different and, slowly but surely, it worked. I was so grateful – I owed you my life. So I bought items for you which I knew you would love, but couldn’t afford. I will never forget your reaction to the first expensive gift. You were thrilled and your joy made me happy. It was the only thing that could create positive feelings in me.

Related: A letter to… my wife, who won’t talk about her anger

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28 March 2020, 6:45 am

'We are all Edward Hopper paintings now': is he the artist of the coronavirus age?

With his deserted cityscapes and isolated figures, the US painter captured the loneliness and alienation of modern life. But the pandemic has given his work a terrifying new significance

Who can fail to have been moved by all the images of people on their doorsteps clapping for the NHS last night? They filled TV screens and news websites, presenting a warming picture of solidarity in enforced solitude – all alone yet all together. But there are some far less reassuring images circulating on social media. Some people are saying we now all exist inside an Edward Hopper painting. It doesn’t seem to matter which one.

I assume this is because we are coldly distanced from each other, sitting at our lonely windows overlooking an eerily empty city, like the woman perched on her bed in Morning Sun, or the other looking out of a bay window in Cape Cod Morning.

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27 March 2020, 4:43 pm

Sharp rise in number of calls to ChildLine over coronavirus

Children’s helpline has provided more than 900 counselling sessions for young people worried about virus

There has been a sharp rise in the number of calls to ChildLine from distressed young people struggling to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on their lives.

Demand for help has been “unprecedented”, according to the children’s helpline, which has provided more than 900 counselling sessions for children and young people worried about the virus, peaking last Wednesday, when the government announced schools across England were to close.

Related: Six in 10 people in UK have felt anxious about coronavirus – poll

Related: Fear of Covid-19 is a mental contagion – and that’s something we can fight

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27 March 2020, 12:01 am

In times of crisis, we turn to the arts. Now the arts is in crisis – and Scott Morrison is silent | Benjamin Law

Staying indoors and washing our hands may keep us alive, but the Australian government needs to protect the arts in order to help us live

Across Australian cities and towns, street lamp banners advertise exhibitions no one can attend and film festivals that will never happen. It has only taken days for the coronavirus to obliterate programs that took years to produce. Now in our increasingly empty streets, it’s as if these banners herald events scheduled to take place in some parallel universe.

In that parallel universe, Torch the Place – the play I wrote for the Melbourne Theatre Company – would’ve wrapped up its sold-out season this week. We’d be celebrating closing night. Instead our actors are taking curtain calls on Instagram and we’re asking ticket holders who missed out to consider donating their ticket to cover costs and keep the theatre alive.

Related: Livestreaming schedule: music, art, literature and events from Australia and beyond

In our most dire hours, art keeps us sane, lights the dark and ensures we stay human

Related: Coronavirus: Australia’s performing arts industry ‘could be brought to the brink’

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26 March 2020, 4:30 pm

Six in 10 people in UK have felt anxious about coronavirus – poll

Survey shows how pandemic is affecting mental health – and suggests what can help

Millions of people in the UK are feeling panicked and unprepared for the coronavirus outbreak, according to a poll showing how the virus is affecting mental health.

The survey, carried out before a full lockdown was imposed, found that more than one in five adults in the UK had felt panicked and three in 10 had felt afraid because of coronavirus. More than six in 10 adults (62%) said they had felt anxious or worried.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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26 March 2020, 1:18 pm

Fear of Covid-19 is a mental contagion – and that's something we can fight

Panic brings out the worst in us. Instead let’s spread courage and solidarity

There is a great difference between panic and awareness. With awareness there is responsibility, a respect for the scale of the problem, and a calm consciousness of what needs to be done.

One can be aware of the coronavirus, aware of what needs to be done to minimise its spread – and we must do those things. But one should not make the situation worse with the negative imagination that is fear. For, like fire, imagination can create or it can destroy. It can make us act from our worst selves. That is what panic does. Panic is fear on steroids. With panic, sanity is lost. Ever since the virus entered our mental culture, it has become omnipresent. We have been engulfed in its world, in its fearsome power.

Related: We face a pandemic of mental health disorders. Those who do it hardest need our support | Paul Daley

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26 March 2020, 12:03 pm

Why it's healthy to be afraid in a crisis

Dr Lucy Johnstone, a clinical psychologist, says it is wrong to view our natural fears as mental health disorders

As a mental health professional, I disagree with the message in Paul Daley’s article (We face a pandemic of mental health disorders, 24 March). We’re not facing “a pandemic of severe mental health disorders”. We’re all facing entirely normal fear, anxiety, despair and confusion about a truly terrifying situation that challenges our whole way of life. Never has it been clearer that so-called “mental disorders” make sense in context. In fact, many professionals would argue that this applies to the whole range of experiences that are labelled as clinical depression, personality disorder, psychosis, and so on.

The more we label our understandable human reactions as disorders, the greater the temptation to disconnect them from their source and focus on new individual “treatments” instead. The drug companies must be rubbing their hands at the prospect of all these new customers. We can come out of this crisis in a better state than before by staying connected with our feelings and the urgent threats that have led to them, and taking collective action to deal with the root causes. These include climate change, environmental degradation, wildlife trafficking, insecure employment, the structure and funding of public services, and the neoliberal values that have driven us for far too long.
Dr Lucy Johnstone
Consultant clinical psychologist, Bristol

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25 March 2020, 7:23 pm

I was born anxious, but I'm coping with coronavirus – here's why | Adrian Chiles

As a teenager I had chronic hypochondria. Yet in the face of a global pandemic I am surprisingly calm. Maybe it’s because we are all in this together

I have noticed something odd about my anxiety at this time: I am not as anxious as I should be. I have been anxious for as long as I can remember: man, boy, child, baby and, for all I know, foetus. It just seems to be in my nature. I have a physical manifestation of it in the shape of a long furrow right across the middle of my brow. If I pull the skin on my forehead right back to stretch away this crevice, a white streak appears in its place. For this troubled trench is so deep that no sunlight finds a way to its depths.

When I was a kid, I worried about everything. I worried whether my friends liked me, whether girls liked me and, most of all, whether West Brom would win their next game. I worried about my grandparents dying and my parents dying. And, logically enough, by the time I got to my teens I started to worry about dying myself. This manifested itself in chronic hypochondria. I was convinced I had pretty much everything at some time or other, but the main focus of my concern was my testicles. To be fair, I had nearly lost them when I was 11 in a bicycle crash at my nan’s house on the day of the 1978 cup final, but that’s another story.

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25 March 2020, 5:10 pm

How to use your spare time during the coronavirus crisis – video

Australian academic, psychologist and author Lea Waters shares some advice as other activities and social engagements are cancelled during the coronavirus crisis. The video forms part of a multipart series looking at ways we can all stay positive

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24 March 2020, 9:15 pm

We face a pandemic of mental health disorders. Those who do it hardest need our support | Paul Daley

Ironically, there has never been a time when we need to be – metaphorically – in tighter social embrace

Yes, this is a frightening, deadly viral pandemic. But another plague, one we are not hearing nearly enough about from our leaders, will arrive in a wave just behind it.

That is the pandemic of severe depression and anxiety that will sweep over the world as the unemployment rate pushes into previously unseen digits, families who’d prefer to be socially distant are thrust together and young people are denied the certainty and structure of school.

Related: Newly unemployed Australians queue at Centrelink offices as MyGov website crashes again

Related: Is there a right way to worry about coronavirus? And other mental health tips

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24 March 2020, 4:30 pm

Community spirit in a crisis | Letters

Marjorie Wallace on the looming mental health crisis, Toby Wood on how music can alleviate anxiety, and David Cragg-James on the resurgence of community feeling

There seems little doubt that we will be facing a mental health crisis as the pandemic affects people’s lives and minds (Is there a right way to worry about coronavirus? And other mental health tips, 19 March). Saneline, our telephone helpline, is under severe pressure from people with depression, anxiety and other conditions. We are now making arrangements so that our trained volunteers will be able to call them back. Already 80% of our callers talk about self-harm and suicide, and we fear that if they are unable to reach us or find other help then they may be tipped over the edge.

For some people, four months at home may seem like a challenge, but for those with no real home, or living in a substandard flat, as many of our callers are, isolation can be hell. The funds released for coronavirus must be spent on mental as well as physical health and prevention.
Marjorie Wallace
Chief executive, Sane

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23 March 2020, 6:58 pm

Man climbed Dixon's chimney 'after decision not to pursue abuse allegation'

Phil Longcake had said he was sexually abused on a regular basis as a child in the 1970s

A man who alleged he was sexually abused as a child died after becoming trapped upside down at the top of a 280-foot chimney in freezing conditions, an inquest has heard.

Robert Philip Longcake, known as Phil, was deeply troubled by a police decision not to prosecute the sexual abuse allegations in the months before he climbed Dixon’s Chimney in Carlisle on 27 October last year, his inquest was told on Monday.

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23 March 2020, 5:35 pm

'Comedy is my way of making sense of life': the comics standing up for mental health

As the series Comedy Against Living Miserably launches, two comedians explain how their jobs affect their emotional wellbeing – and how they hope to help their audiences

“Every time you get depressed, comedy will be there to drag your ass out of it,” said Robin Williams in 1996. It is a gut-punch of a quote, considering that depression was one of the factors that led to his death 18 years later (although his wife has said the main reason for his suicide was probably the debilitating brain disease diffuse Lewy body dementia). It also speaks to a nagging sense that there is some truth to the “tears of a clown” cliche: that many of those who seek to make us laugh are masking private sadness.

The list of comedy greats who have had some form of mental illness is long: Richard Pryor, Spike Milligan, Caroline Aherne, Stephen Fry, Joan Rivers and Kenneth Williams to name a few. The doubters say that it is no more common among comics than anyone else – they are just more cognisant of the bad stuff in the world and have the outlet to talk about it.

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23 March 2020, 1:26 pm

Regulate your breathing – and four other ways to sleep when you're anxious

Is worrying about coronavirus keeping you awake? From staying busy to preparing a ‘nest’, here is a guide to help you drift off

Winding down without screens has always been key to getting a good night’s sleep – and it is more important than ever, says the sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor. More of an issue than the stimulating effects of blue light is the sense of being overwhelmed by the news. It is important to keep up with the coverage “within reason”, says Taylor; however, “for sleep, that means evenings without it”. Reading the news before bed may cause a spike in adrenaline that will impede sleep.

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22 March 2020, 4:00 pm