'Lockdown': What does it mean for you?
For some people, the term 'lockdown' suggests safety and security, and for others, a time of suppression and restriction. In mental health services, there has been a lot of discussion about the potential for increased restrictive practices in care homes and mental health hospitals. In these fear-laden times, people have found being restricted in their homes genuinely challenging.
Having your movements restricted and living intensely with others may be proving difficult and lonely. You may be experiencing abuse. This feeling of repression, of restricted choices and missing loved ones, is a familiar one for those people in hospital. The psychology of the repressed and suppressed is hugely emphasised by the current pandemic and international campaigns for social, racial and economic justice, like 'black lives matter', emphasise this further. The full impact of this current situation is as yet unknown. Still, we do know that certain conditions can lead to specific changes in humankind and people's mental health.
Having mental health needs during the pandemic can be an undeniably tricky situation to find yourself in. If you already feel imprisoned and mistrusted by the way others treat you, asking you to lockdown can be like asking you to crush your spirit further.
We also know that in hospital, it can feel like your choices or human rights are limited, and the lockdown ruling emphasised this by adding strain to an already stressful situation. To safeguard vulnerable people during this time, we must see an increase in external scrutiny of mental health services, and a reduction of restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so. In our Schoen Clinic mental health hospitals, we have been following government guidelines and reviewing our procedures and practise accordingly. We evaluate these regularly to ensure that we can meet patient needs wherever possible.
Other people can find lockdown a comfort, who feel shielded and protected from the dangers that lurk behind every corner. They don't hear the words lockdown as acutely as the words 'stay safe'. They don't have to go out into the world where they feel anxious, concerned about what people think of them, full of shame and despair. When hidden away in lockdown, it doesn't necessarily equate to feeling happy. No, it just feels a little less scary and more comfortable to cope with life.
Now imagine what it is going to feel like to have to get back out there. Do you feel a bit strange getting in your car when you haven't been in it for days, weeks? Do you walk into the shops wondering if people are looking at you? Or judging you? Many people do and can let it pass with a shrug and a laugh at themselves.
On the contrary, people who experience anxiety or depression will not be able to shrug off these thoughts or laugh at these feelings. Still, they will feel them profoundly and be embarrassed. You may not visibly notice these people, or you may see some people moving as quickly as possible with their heads down trying to look invisible. Being kind to ourselves and all other people is the one thing we should do from a fundamental level of treating people as we would like to be treated. Notice them and treat them with compassion.
Lockdown is a term which evokes different things to different people and therefore different behaviours. If you have a mood disorder, this period of lockdown and also the easing of lockdown may have a severe impact on your mental health and wellbeing. You may be experiencing trauma and grief, or a fear of going out may even outweigh your desire to seek help. At Schoen Clinic Chelsea, our mental health centre located in London; we want you to know that we are here to help and we are doing all we can to keep you safe. Our mood disorder groups and individual therapy services can help you.