WATCH | SA therapist warns of 'loss of identity' as many experience 'corona-coaster'

07 August 2020 - 08:00 By Deepa Kesa

The Covid-19 pandemic is a major threat to physical health, but it has also become a significant challenge for mental health. The pandemic and lockdown have many negative consequences, including intense short and long-term effects on people's health globally.

Carin Marcus, who is a clinical social worker and logo-therapist at The Norwood Therapy Centre in Johannesburg, said since the start of lockdown she has definitely seen an increase in clients facing mental health issues. “I see a lot of people experiencing the 'corona-coaster', and this is because we are living in an unprecedented time. There is no handbook that tells you how to deal with all of this,” says Marcus.

She added that the most common trend she has experienced among her clients is loss, but loss in several ways. Loss of loved ones, loss of identity, loss of freedom, loss of security and commitment, loss of the known and, most important, loss of bereavement due to restrictions.

Clinical social worker Dana Labe says she has also seen an increase of stress-related issues in her clients, with the main trend being financial stress. She added that “the stress-related issues are very prominent among the younger generation — young adults are dealing with an unpredictable and foggy future which puts extra strain on them”.

Labe says lockdown is revealing pre-existing cracks in families, relationships, society, individuals and government. People are being forced to deal with things that they would generally not have time for.

International studies have been instituted to understand the magnitude and nature of mental health issues people around the world are facing.

The Collaborative Outcomes study on Health and Functioning during Infection Times (COH-FIT) is now running and preparing for a study that is going to measure the effects of the pandemic and lockdown on people's physical and mental health worldwide. It's the largest global study of its kind.

It is being launched by more than 200 international investigators and the study will collect information now, as well as in six and 12 months' time. The study will collect information from more than 100,000 participants in more than 40 countries and six continents, SA included.

Ruth Ancer, a clinical psychologist in Johannesburg, said people shouldn't feel ashamed for feeling depressed or anxious. She said during a time like this, it is normal and understandable, and that people should reach out if they feel they can't cope.

“I have noticed that even though people have been struggling, paying for private therapy is out of the question because of current financial strains for most people, so they struggle privately.”

Ancer said she has had many clients who are suffering from social isolation and people who are dealing with relationship strains. She added it is just as important to reach out about mental health challenges as it is to seek help for physical health issues.