Reporter Emelie Peacock.

Don’t forget your mental health, as you do your bit to stop the spread of COVID-19

I didn’t expect the first edition of the Hope Standard I help put out this year would be written from my bedroom, yet here we are.

I arrived in town last week from the Northwest Territories and had some mild flu-like symptoms. Wanting to keep my colleagues safe, I stayed home from my first day on the job and checked in with a doctor. Self-isolate he told me, which I began immediately. First I googled what self-isolation entails – not leaving the home unless absolutely necessary, having groceries dropped at the door, washing your hands often, etcetera. Then I began to practice this strange new reality.

You can read about two of your neighbours who are self-isolating after returning from the U.S. in this week’s Standard. They seem to be doing well, not least due to the sunshine we’ve been blessed with last week. Betty and George Johansen fully understand they are some of the lucky ones, they have each other and a home and can make do with the food they picked up. “So we couldn’t find potatoes, we found rice,” Betty remarked.

Read more: From Arizona to Hope, and self-isolation

Some of our neighbours are facing very different realities – including people who are either sleeping rough, or sharing the space of Hope’s 20-bed shelter with 19 others. There is no way to self-isolate there, says Gerry Dyble who runs the Hope and Area Transition Society.

You can read about how the shelter dealt with a brief food shortage scare and how they are planning for a space should shelter residents need to self isolate. “We’re still trying to maintain some connection with folks. Because they’re already isolated, and now they’re further isolated as a result of this,” said Dyble, of her efforts to keep programming going.

Read more: Hope’s emergency shelter braces for COVID-19

Researchers are already beginning to study how the pandemic is affecting our mental health, with UBC health psychologist Dr. Anita DeLongis looking into how people are coping with the massive disruptions to their daily routines as Canada tries to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Read more: Researchers study how pandemic affecting people’s mental health

Self-isolation has been really tough on me, being completely on my own save for two cats as company. I often have to push pause on the panic in my mind and remind myself that our country is at peace, there will be enough food and I have what I need to stay alive and physically well.

I also have to remind myself there are countless ways to reach out to people – whether it’s playing online game with friends from across the world, cooking together over the phone, or dancing to online concerts – and remind myself that reaching out at this time is critical to remain mentally well.

I also need to keep reminding myself of the moments where people have gone out of their way to stay in touch by bringing groceries, checking in daily or driving all the way from Vancouver to stand below my balcony and ‘socialize’ with me from a safe distance (before self-isolation was encouraged for everyone.) These are things I never expected friends and colleagues would do, yet when you are spending 24 hours within the four walls of home these actions and gestures are a lifeline.

So please do listen to the public health experts, do self-isolate if you are experiencing symptoms. Maintain the six foot distance from others, for the time being, and encourage your loved ones to do the same. But don’t forget to check in with yourself and reach out to others, even if it feels awkward at first. It can mean the world to them.

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