COURTNEY McCLURE, Intern to The Standard

DURHAM: The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting many people’s mental health.
David Clarke, Durham Mental Health’s Communications and Training Coordinator, said many residents in Durham are being negatively affecting by the pandemic because they are feeling uncertain about the future.
The change in people’s daily routine is throwing them off balance, since residents are not advised to leave their homes unless it is absolutely crucial.
According to Mr. Clarke, stress is being introduced into people’s lives, which is causing more and more people to feel anxious and develop signs and symptoms of depression and other mental illnesses. “Stress aggravates every pre-existing condition,” stated the Training Coordinator. “So, it doesn’t matter what you have, physical health or metal health [issues], they are all going to be made worse by stress.”
He explained that if people are prone to depressive episodes or have an anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder, they may experience worsening symptoms.
Even if someone does not have a mental illness or has no background of depression or anxiety, for example, the stress of dealing with the pandemic can affect them in similar ways, shared David. “Especially, the uncertainty of whether you’re going to catch the virus.”
The unpredictability of how long the pandemic will last is a major cause of stress in residents in Durham Region and around the Globe.
There is also the vagueness surrounding what is happening in the global economy and the uncertainty of what state local businesses and jobs will be in, once restrictions are lifted.
Mr. Clarke may not be one of the people working on the frontlines during this pandemic, however, he has observed many people, attending virtual therapy and counselling sessions, who have shared they are dealing with loneliness during this time.
Countless people are struggling with coping with the fear of the unknown, since so many variables are uncertain.
Another example David gave, in terms of disruption to the daily routine, is of people living in abusive households, or with one or more people who are abusive. For example, Mr. Clarke said, if a woman is living with an abusive partner and they are in a lock-down situation like the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be another aggravator of stress, since it is less likely for the victim to get away from their abuser. “It can be an added danger to you [the person being abused],” stated Mr. Clarke.
Communicating with others and reaching out for support is vital for those in these situations. Technology programs like Zoom and Skype offer a way people can stay connected.
He also advises people who are not currently employed, because of the pandemic, to look into what is available to them for financial support through the province.
His advice for frontline workers is to follow protocol. “Follow protocol. Know, you are doing an unbelievable service for our community.”
According to Mr. Clarke, frontline workers should also reach out for support, since they are directly coming into contact with people who may carry the virus.
Despite the many uncertainties he shared, there are ways people can make it through this time. “Practise an attitude of gratitude,” he said. “If we can remind ourselves that, even though there has been a lot of disruption to our lives, right now, we have got so much that we can hold on to and be thankful for.”
If people think about all they have to be thankful for, it may relieve a bit of their anxiety and stress. “As Mr. Rodgers always said, ‘look for the helpers’,” Mr. Clarke said. According to him, if people look and “pay attention”, they can find the good in anything, and he advises them to stick to an at-home routine, and to keep connected with people, as much as possible.