With Boris Johnson expected to escalate the UK’s response to the spread of the coronavirus today, Dr James Davies, psychotherapy expert from the University of Roehampton, comments on the impact of Covid-19 on the public’s mental health and how people can better deal with their concerns, not resort to mass panic buying:
“When faced with a concerning situation like the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, it is completely understandable to have a certain level of anxiety about what could happen. After all, we are still very much learning about the virus and how it is spreading, so this will inevitably heighten the emotions some people are feeling. At the moment we can’t say where we will be in a month or two, and to have these unanswered questions is an unsettling position to be in. As such, we have already seen the effect that such uncertainty is having on our behaviours, from people resorting to panic buying to feel more in control and prepared for what’s to come, to commuters wearing full protective masks on their commute to work.
“However, panic buying in shops is not occurring on a widespread scale, with the instances we have seen not representing the country’s actions as a whole. The media should be wary of overplaying this narrative, as it can in turn fuel more panic buying. If I believe my neighbour is stockpiling certain products then I may believe I should too – and a vicious circle ensues with obvious detrimental social effects.
“It might seem obvious, but if people are experiencing overwhelming anxiety or worry, the best approach is to talk to friends and family. By simply expressing these worries, we can begin to mitigate and reduce them. By talking to others you can also test whether what you are feeling is proportionate to other views of the situation, perhaps putting things in a different light and perspective.
“A thought people might find therapeutic and helpful in getting through this tough period is that, for the first time in a while – and especially after the divisions around Brexit – it feels like the UK as a country is united in trying to overcome a problem. Coronavirus is a common foe and vastly different from the worries that people might have had during our various political troubles over the last decade. There is a belief we are tackling this together. As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved, and this is definitely something the country can take hope from.”