The unexpected longevity of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased feelings of isolation for many but especially those living alone. For many this loneliness may be exasperated over the Christmas period and could escalate into symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression, RedArc is urging employees to lean on support for mental health conditions, be it within their employee benefits or outside their organisation.
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc, said: “Back in March, no-one expected us to still be living with such severe restrictions, limiting our movements and interactions with friends and family. And even the potential to relax some of these rules over the Christmas period itself is causing unexpected anxiety for those who want to mix with others but are unsure if it’s safe to do so or who have difficult choices to make in order to follow the rules. Both the restrictions themselves and the uncertainty can cause mental health issues to resurface in those who’ve previously experienced problems and can also induce symptoms in other individuals for the first time.”
The pressures on the NHS are widely acknowledged and so RedArc recommends that anyone who feels that their mental health is deteriorating over the festive period should investigate whether they can access professional support via a number of different routes.
Mental health support is often included within health and wellbeing benefits, including group protection and healthcare. Although some insurers only allow a referral at the point of a claim, many now allow self-referral at any time. Other organisations such as the Samaritans can also be a potential first port of call and not just in times of crisis.
Christine Husbands continued: “It’s vitally important for individuals to seek help when they first notice their mental health deteriorating, and avoid self-diagnosis or self-medication. By accessing professional mental health support, the individual can be assessed by a qualified mental health practitioner who will be not only be able to determine what interventions might be helpful, but who can also provide crucial reassurance and validation of what the individual is feeling.”
Support often starts via a telephone conversation or video call and can be co-ordinated via a mental health expert. In some cases, ongoing emotional support is sufficient for the individual to make a recovery but others may need a structured course of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy or more specialist support such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) as well as advice about nutrition, relaxation and improving sleep quality. Reading materials and signposting to national and local charities and support groups can also aid recovery.
Christine Husbands, concluded: “Even before the pandemic, Christmas could be a really difficult period for people who are on their own. There is huge pressure to be sociable and knowing that other people are together can make the feelings of isolation and loneliness even more acute at this time of year. Mental health support is available and can and should be accessed over the festive period by checking the details of what is available via employee benefits, insurance policies and other routes.”