Almanac Comment: The mental effects isolation has on people

Do you know the facts about how severe isolation can be on people who suffer from depression and anxiety?

 

A lot of people are struggling during quarantine, however those who had pre-existing mental health issues are being hit by these times the hardest.

 

Beyond Blue says that loneliness and social isolation have the same mental and physical effect as smoking or obesity, meaning it can be deadly. They go on to say that Australian’s who feel lonely are 15.2% more likely to be depressed and 13.1% more likely to be anxious.

 

Accredited mental health social worker, Dawn Vincent, has over 30-years’ experience of helping people who suffer from depression and anxiety. Dawn emphasised that isolation will greatly impact people who have both depression and anxiety, as they will struggle to find things to distract them from their own thoughts.

 

“If you’ve been depressed, and then you’re on your own, you feel lonely, you feel more isolated, you’ve a lot more time to focus on the negative thoughts going through your head. You know it also depends on your personality. If people are extraverted and they thrive on the company of other people, they particularly find it harder when they’re in isolation. If you’re the only one listening to your thoughts and you’ve got limited contact with other people, then everything just gets magnified and gets blown out of proportion”, Dawn stated.

 

Hearing the details from someone whose profession is to help people cope with their mental health problems highlights the ruthlessness of isolation. While most people are finding it difficult or boring, they are forgetting about those people who may be living alone or dealing with mental health issues.

 

Research was conducted through Facebook, where a post was put up asking the members of the community how they were feeling and coping during isolation. While some of the comments that came in were positive, it was discovered that a great number of people were distressed whilst stuck at home.

 

Fiona Evans comments that she is struggling because she’s trying to keep two kids on track with their schooling and look after her autistic daughter and elderly mother.

 

Julie Fraser wrote that her husband has been stuck in Western Australian since Victoria went into lockdown, meaning she hasn’t seen him in around six months. Her daughter recently moved out which has left her completely alone during quarantine, and the highlight of her day is now going to McDonald’s for a coffee.

 

23-year-old Keagan Chase is another member of the community who reached out in response to the post. Keagan has been out of work since Stage 4 restrictions were introduced and hasn’t been coping well.

 

When asked how he is finding the isolation periods, Keagan mentioned that because he is a mechanic by trade, he’s used to having a set routine and something to do each day. But since he had to isolate, he’s been finding it harder to get motivated to do things. He said that his typical days all comes down to how he’s feeling.

 

Keagan stated, “Put it this way, if my head will let me sleep, I can go to sleep at a regular time, as in like 12 o’clock, otherwise, last night for example, I wasn’t able to fall asleep until about four in the morning”.

 

Keagan was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety when he was 17 years old, meaning he’s now been battling the issues for 6 years. When asked how he manages his mental health issues, he said, “It’s not something that’s easy to deal with, but I suppose I’ve kind of got used to it. But, being out of routine sort of doesn’t help, especially when you’re in a house by yourself. I live with my housemate; he works, and he goes to his girlfriend’s, so, sometimes when it’s big ol’ empty house, like it is now, and you hear it echoes and that, yeah it’s a bit disconcerting”.

 

Beyond Blue says that loneliness can worsen depression and anxiety, and for Keagan, who is an extremely social person, he’s found that isolation has heightened and made his problems worse. He said that ultimately, it’s just made it harder for him because he needs and wants a routine each day, and in isolation he doesn’t have that. He is also worried about whether his mental state is going to get worse the longer he’s in lockdown because it can be so unpredictable.

 

Keagan said, “It’s all sort of influenced by so many different things. Sometimes it’s influenced by itself. One could be influenced by the other, or vice versa. Or loneliness could spark a bit of a depressive episode because you can’t see anybody, and then when you’re trying to get over and be like, yo, it’s just for a short period of time, then the anxiety kicks in because you can’t talk your brain out of the way it’s feeling. So, it’s a bit hard to tell, hopefully it’s not something that gets worse. One day at a time, really, that’s the way to do it”.

 

Keagan wanted to share his story to try and help others realise that they aren’t the only ones who may be finding isolation tough and exhausting. The main things to take away is that having a routine and things to do is vital to help fight against depression and anxiety.

 

Amelia Twiss is a psychologist who has 11-years’ experience helping people with life coaching, career guidance and relationship issues. When asked for some suggestions on ways people can cope during isolation, Amelia stated, “Think about exercising, have a look at your nutrition, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, reduce your alcohol intake, and stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. If you feel safe to do so, go and stay connected with your neighbourhood services, drop in at your local shop, your local café, and just connect face-to-face with your barista, smile and say hello, and that’s just a really nice, simple way to get some human interaction if you’re on your own.”

 

As human beings, we’re naturally social creatures, and so extended periods of isolation take a huge toll mentally and physically on us. Some people have the stamina to cope during these times, but for those dealing with previous mental health issues, these times can be extremely upsetting.

 

Both Dawn and Amelia emphasise the best way to cope is to stay connected with friends and family in any way you can. Beyond Blue also says that loneliness worsens depression and anxiety and so it’s vital to stay connected. You can get in contact with Beyond Blue at 1300 22 4636 or send an email through their website.

 

Remember, it isn’t stupid to reach out and get help. You constantly need to be looking after yourself and your mental wellbeing during isolation.

 

 

SECONDARY SOURCES

 

 

GET IN CONTACT

I found both Dawn and Amelia through the website Psychology Today, and sent them a message. They both responded quickly and efficiently, and were lovely people to talk to. If you need to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, you can find their profiles through the links below.

 

Amelia Twiss: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/counselling/amelia-twiss-coaching-psychologist-melbourne-vic/460264

Dawn Vincent: https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/counselling/dawn-vincent-camberwell-vic/421281

 

Lifeline is a free and confidential support service which can be reached on 13 11 14.

Beyond Blue  can be reached on 1300 22 46 36.

 

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

About Shannon Cole

My name is Shannon Cole and I am 20 years old. I am a journalism student at Deakin University, while also working part-time as a swimming instructor. I got the opportunity to write for The Footy Almanac through one of my university units, and I also have a personal blog where I post articles (www.shannonjournalism.com), so feel free to check that out. I hope you enjoy my articles and keep an eye out for any new ones I post!

Comments

  1. Thanks for this insight, Shannon.
    I am fortunate in that I do not suffer from depression or anxiety, so I can only begin to imagine what lockdown must be like for those who do. Nor would it be a good time to be living alone.

  2. Andrew Starkie says

    Very important writing, Shannon. Well done. Isolation can be the beginning of every social and personal problem.

  3. Good reading Shannon.

    It’s a time when I feel I really must try and call people, family, older relatives etc more often than I normally would. Lockdown for me is nothing compared to what our older rellies are going through.

    Interesting topic too, loneliness and isolation in the light of this situation, and the way it affects different generations for differing reasons.

  4. Middle Australia says

    Great piece, Shannon. A timely reminder that there is support out there.

  5. Good work Shannon. The impact of the Coronavirus on us goes well beyond the actual impact of the virus. Mental Health problems, Alcohol and Other Drug issues, Domestic Violence all are exacerbated by the impact of the Coronavirus. Thank goodness, compared to ‘popular’ opinion the evidence is that there’s not been an increase in suicides.

    Shannon, I’m wondering if you or many readers are aware of Mental Health First Aid? I highly recommend it. Learn the importance of A A L G E E.

    As a front line worker the impact of the virus impacts us in myriad ways. Luckily i’m working in community health, not in a clinical setting, thus the impact is not as acute. We still work with the occasional person who has the virus, but as well as that there’s all the other issues with all our patients, compounded by the impact on us as health workers. We also can’t go to the gym, can’t go out to the movies/RSL/restaurant, let alone go away somewhere for a break. I’ve been pushing at work for some sort of proper debriefing for us when we get out of this stage.

    Stay safe Shannon, keep up the good work.

    Glen!

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