There are increasing reports starting too surface uncovering the awful toll the covid-19 lock-down and self-isolation measures are having on our mental health. The measures are, of course, necessary to protect our society but this doesn't make the emotional toll any easier to bear for many.
Then, I saw the following post by a father in the US about mental health of his son during lock-down that struck such a cord I wanted to share it with our community, see below;
My son died of COVID-19
This dad, Brad Hunstable shares his heartbreaking message: “Human condition is not to be socially isolated."He started a foundation to develop Social & Emotional Learning curriculum for kids. It’s called Hayden's Corner. I donated to it and hope you will too. To donate, visit HaydensCorner.orgTo learn how to parent emotionally resilient kids, visit RaiseThemStrong.com#THATsmile #HaydensCorner #RaiseThemStrong
Posted by Brooks Gibbs on Thursday, 30 April 2020
With the increased screen time, internet usage and social isolation due to the lock-down, digital parenting has a significant role to play in helping maintain and improve the mental health of our family and friends.
In the post, we discuss the role technology has to play in maintaining a healthy emotional state, the signs to look out for that someone is suffering and what to do if they are.
Technology Helps Maintain Support Networks
Whether you're consciously aware of it or not, we all rely heavily on the support networks that our family and friends provide us. Take that away, as self-isolation does, and people start to feel trapped, isolated, lonely and down. Technology however can play a vital role in helping maintain these support networks, see suggestions below;
- Zoom Calls & Quizzes - the obvious suggestion but having regular zoom calls with family and friends can do us the world of good. Get creative and host quizzes to spice things up! Rather than asking mundane questions like "Who invented the light bulb", use personalised questions such as "How many bottles of gin does mum have in the house currently?" or "10 points awarded to the person who can dress the most like Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean in 1minute...go!".
- 'Headspace' or 'Calm' Mobile Apps - use the headspace app to learn how to relax mentally, learn meditation and how to 'quieten your inner voice'.
- Netflix Party - miss going to the cinema with friends? Download and install the Chrome browser plug-in called 'Netflix Party' and you can all share the experience of watching a move together, despite being in different households! You can chat and discuss the film in a side chat window as it plays. Whilst it definitely doesn't equate to the real thing, it does help remind us of the 'sense of togetherness' such past-times provide us.
- Online Gaming - make online gaming a family experience! It's a great bonding exercise and a fantastic opportunity for them to show off their honed skills! Good games to setup a family tournament on are;
- Mario Kart 8
- No Man’s Sky
- Fifa 19
Ensure you're keeping your kids safe when using online games by following our advice here.
- Exercise At Home - numerous personal trainers (like Joe Wicks) have started hold live streams gym sessions we can do at home. Don't worry....you don't need any gym gear or equipment. The workouts are tend to be tailored to body weight exercises only! Regular exercise significantly helps our mental state.Checkout Joe's Youtube channel here.He even does superhero themed workouts for young children!
Digital Parenting Can Help Maintain a Health Mind
There are some really important elements of digital parenting that can help us maintain a healthy mind when in lock-down.
- Be Kind - goes without saying but a good digital parent teaches their children to be kind and thoughtful when interacting with others online. Teach them to spread the love - show them the impact of complimenting people online rather than judging them. Use your own social media feed (that they will likely follow) to act by example.
- Critical Thinking - especially important for our children, parents need to be teaching their little ones the ability to think critically about the information, media and stories they see online. With all the scaremongering around covid-19, it's important they know that not everything they see online or in the press is true.
Not everything they see online is going to be what it appears. Your child must be able to assess information presented to them online and determine themselves whether it is relevant and credible. They should be encouraged to challenge points of view and sources of data - just because something looks credible doesn't mean it is. Do they understand the drivers behind media scare-mongering - why might newspapers and media outlets want to portray a more scary and intimidating perspective than what it is in reality? All areas to cover off with them.
- Digital - Life Balance - technology is a life saver - literally. But when it comes to social media and online gaming it is incredible addictive. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) just added online gaming to their addiction 'watch list'. A digital parent teaches their children the ways to a healthy digital life. How to enjoy technology without over-doing things.
This is incredibly important for our mental state and well-being. Technology can be used to help lessen social isolation but used too much, it can become an unhealthy crux too. Ensure that your family takes regular breaks from tech (60mins tech use try to take at least half or equal, so 30-60mins, on a non-tech related activity). Get outside if you can. Get creative!
- Reporting and Blocking - a good digital parent teaches their children the reporting and blocking functionalities of the major social media sites. This is so that your kids can self-manage any occurrences where strangers are trying to get in contact or people are being mean to them. This helps both keep them secure but helps their mental well-being too. For example, without knowing how to block someone on Facebook, horrible messages might pop up over and over again for the child, reminding them of the nasty comments left by the aggressor. These constant reminders can start to have a detrimental effect on mood and overall mental state.
Mind, the UK mental health charity, explains the following signs can be early signs of mental health issues.
How you/they might feel;
- Down, upset or tearful
- Restless, agitated or irritable
- Guilty, worthless and down on yourself
- Unable to relate to other people
- Finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
- No self-confidence or self-esteem
- Hopeless and despairing
How you/they might behave;
- Avoiding social events and activities you usually enjoy
- Self-harming or suicidal behaviour
- Difficulty speaking, thinking clearly or making decisions
- Losing interest in sex
- Difficulty remembering or concentrating on things
- Using more tobacco, alcohol or other drugs than usual
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping too much
- Feeling tired all the time
- No appetite and losing weight, or eating too much and gaining weight
- Physical aches and pains with no obvious physical cause
- Moving very slowly, or being restless and agitated
What To Do
If you or someone you know is suffering from any of these above symptoms, you can use the following resources to get them the help and support they need.
- Contact Mind here.
- Contact NHS Mental Health Helpline here.