The psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic

The current situation is also having an impact on our mental health. Psychotherapist Yvik Adler on therapists being inundated with enquiries, the pandemic blues, and tips on how to get through these tough times with our mental health intact.

19.02.2021

Olivia Goricanec

Are more people in need of mental health support right now?

Since early summer, psychologists and psychotherapists have been inundated with enquiries like never before. They’re still flooding in. We don’t know how to handle them. I have to turn down three new clients every day. 

We’ve been dealing with coronavirus for a year. What’s your take on the current situation?

Our society is currently marked by a great deal of worry and concern. Many people are feeling low and struggling with the uncertainty about what will happen next. People find it difficult coping with the lack of a predictable future. 

A lot of people got in touch during the first lockdown who’d started suffering from anxiety they’re still dealing with today. 

Who is getting in touch with you?

People aged 12 to 72. There are people whose predominant emotion is fear. They’re terrified of getting the virus. The virus has made them feel paralysed and unable to do anything. 

Others are struggling with the symptoms of depression. In therapy, we’ve seen a huge rise in these cases since the beginning of autumn. People are suffering from a loss of hope and motivation as well as existential angst. 

There are also people who feel completely at the mercy of the current situation and are angry. They’re tense and agitated. They’re struggling with the crisis and the constantly changing measures, which are making them weary. They can no longer do a lot of things that mattered to them. That’s not easy. More recently, it has been younger people who have contacted me seeking help. 

Why are young people struggling in particular?

Teenagers and younger adults need contact with their peers for their personal and social development. For many of them, their studies are now only taking place online. That can be taxing. Young people have a particularly low tolerance for isolation and monotony.

What impact does isolation in particular have on us?

We humans are social animals. We need social interaction, contact and communication for our well-being. You can make up for a lot online, but certainly not everything. 

How are couples and families coping right now?

Many couples and families are feeling claustrophobic, as proximity and distance are hard to control owing to the restrictions on contact. That can exacerbate conflicts. Stress levels are high as people are working from home and taking care of children at the same time. Families who already had it tough before the pandemic are really suffering. For these parents and children, isolation is having a particularly harmful effect on their life together.  

At the moment, I’ve got a lot of couples who are separating or talking about splitting up. 

Do children call you too?

No, kids don’t get in touch themselves. Their parents contact me because they’re struggling and stumped about what to do to help their children. The children are showing signs of stress and anxiety and some are even avoiding school. The COVID-19 crisis is hitting children harder than us adults.

What’s happening with your older clients?

Some of them don’t mind keeping to themselves a bit more. They’re coping well with the situation. Others are struggling massively with loneliness. Some of them even say: ‘Hey, you can’t keep me shut up like this. I’m going to go out to the shops now anyway.’ The situation is really tough for these people. 

What will the mental health impact of this crisis be?

The effects of social distancing on society remain to be seen. The fact is: in a crisis, people pull together and seek more social cohesion. We have to avoid that right now because of the virus. It’s a dilemma. That’s why it’s all the more important to maintain social interaction.

How should we do that?

You should keep in touch with your social circle as much as possible. Phone calls, video calls, messaging, going for socially distanced walks with another person. Staying socially connected and active as much as you can. It’s not good for our mental health to withdraw completely. 

What are the potential effects of withdrawing completely?

We know, for instance, that people with a predisposition have begun drinking more during the pandemic. Those close to someone with a drinking problem should pay attention and take action straight away if they need to. People with addictions usually don’t go and get help by themselves. You can call an advice service or go in person with the individual affected. 

For families already at breaking point, a rise in domestic violence, including towards children, is a problem right now. These families must continue to get help from the various services available and should under no circumstances be left to their own devices. 

What would you advise people who are struggling with the pandemic blues?

You should stay as active as possible. It’s important not to fall into a kind of paralysis. You should try to actively shape your day-to-day. Create a clear structure to your day, with time for tasks and time for fun, and add a little variety: go out, call someone, watch a film, express your creative side. Exercise is hugely important. It helps you stay healthy and has a positive effect on mood. 

You shouldn’t consume too much media. Especially not those that pile more anxieties onto your plate. It’s important to give yourself a sense of hope and keep in mind: it will all be over someday.

Does positive self-talk actually help?

Absolutely. It’s important to self-soothe and tell yourself: I’ve already handled difficult situations. I’ve come through other things. You should think about what’s helped you in a different crisis. Relaxation exercises and yoga can be helpful. There are all kinds of offerings and services online. Websites like Dureschnufe.ch can also help you deal with the situation. 

And what if all that doesn’t work?

If you’re still dealing with a lot of anxiety, feeling really down, struggling to sleep, under constant stress or even suffering from suicidal thoughts, you should reach out to the people around you. And if that doesn’t work, you should seek professional help right away.

People who are struggling don’t always seek help. Should people close to them approach them?

Yes, of course. You should take action if you think the person is at risk. Every canton in Switzerland has an emergency service, usually a mental health emergency support service, that you can contact around the clock. Sometimes it’s better to do too much than too little.

Important contacts

Health Consultation

Our Health Consultation advisors have useful tips on how to look after your mental health.

All information on the Health Consultation

Emergency counselling

For psychological support in the event of financial or social emergencies, you can make use of our free emergency counselling.

Tel. 058 340 16 11

PsyFinder

The PsyFinder on psychologie.ch is a good way to find qualified psychologists and psychotherapists for advice and/or therapy.

PsyFinder

Dureschnufe

You can find more information on services and tips for looking after your mental health during the pandemic on dureschnufe.ch.

dureschnufe.ch

Psychotherapist Yvik Adler Psychotherapist Yvik Adler

Psychotherapist Yvik Adler

Yvik Adler is a specialist in psychotherapy with her own practice in Solothurn and Co-President of the Federation of Swiss Psychologists (FSP).

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