Defence Team Mental Health and Coping during COVID-19

March 20, 2020 - Defence stories
Colonel Helen Wright, Director Mental Health, Canadian Forces Health Services Group

The outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may be stressful for people and communities. It is not unusual to feel anxiety about COVID-19 and you will probably worry about the potential impact on yourself and your family. Some distress is common in uncertain situations like this outbreak, and it may cause strong emotions in both adults and children.

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.  

The emotional impact of an unusual or urgent situation depends on the person’s characteristics and experiences, their social and economic circumstances, and the availability of local resources. It is normal to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, scared or angry when experiencing a situation such as COVID-19. However, signs of severe emotional distress, such as persistent insomnia, interpersonal problems, disabling fear, increased use of alcohol or drugs, indicate you should reach out for help.   

Reactions during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

Some of these fears and reactions spring from realistic understanding of the dangers, but many reactions and behaviours are also fed by rumours and misinformation.

Some people may have positive experiences, such as pride in their contribution and finding ways of coping and resilience. Community members often show great altruism and cooperation, and people may experience great satisfaction from helping others.

Things you can do to support yourself and your family:

During times of increased stress, it is common to enter the Reacting Zone of the Mental Health Continuum. While this is an adaptive response, and most individuals will use their own positive coping strategies to manage the increased demands, it is important to maintain an ongoing awareness of your health and well-being during this time.  Note any significant changes in behaviour including listening to friends and family members if they express concern for your well-being, and ensuring that coping strategies remain positive and effective.

Mental Health Continuum Model
Mental Health Continuum Model

Source for infographic above

Mental Health Continuum Model - Text version

This diagram describes the range of mental health—healthy, reacting, injured and ill—and lists the behaviours associated with each part of this range.

Healthy behaviours include normal mood fluctuations, calmness and the ability to take things in stride, a good sense of humour, good performance, being in control, normal sleep patterns, few sleep difficulties, being physically well, having a good energy level, being physically and socially active, and limited or no alcohol use or gambling.

Reacting behaviours include being irritable or impatient, being nervous, being sad or overwhelmed, expressing displaced sarcasm, procrastination, forgetfulness, having trouble sleeping, having intrusive thoughts, having nightmares, having muscle tension or headaches, having low energy, decreased activity or socializing, and regular but controlled alcohol use or gambling.

Injured behaviours include anger, anxiety, pervasive sadness or hopelessness, a negative attitude, poor performance or workaholic behaviour, poor concentration or decisions, restless or disturbed sleep, recurrent images or nightmares, increased aches and pains, increased fatigue, avoidance, withdrawal, and increased alcohol use or hard-to-control gambling.

Ill behaviours include angry outbursts or aggression; excessive anxiety or panic attacks; depression or suicidal thoughts; overt insubordination; an inability to perform duties, control behaviour or concentrate; an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep; sleeping too much or too little; physical illnesses; constant fatigue; not going out or not answering phone; and an alcohol or gambling addiction or other addictions.

Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed or concerned that COVID-19 is affecting your ability to care for yourself or your family. Reach out to a family member, friend or a professional. 

If it is an urgent or life-threatening situation – call 911.

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