Depleted? Fatigued? Mental health a 'huge part of the Covid-19 picture'

Dr Chinea Eziefula and Dr Phil Moore

Dr Chinea Eziefula and Dr Phil Moore - Credit: Chinea Eziefula/Annie Oswald

The number of people seeking help with the residual effects of Covid-19 is expected to grow, according to Camden's lead for long-term health conditions.

Clinical psychologist Dr Chinea Eziefula will be taking part in Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health on Friday, May 21 – a day of free online events around wellbeing.

She will join Dr Phil Moore, chair of the NHS Mental Health Commissioners Network, and Highgate's Marjorie Wallace, founder of the mental health charity SANE, for a panel discussion on the challenges people face and the support that is out there.

Dr Eziefula, who is Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust's lead for long-term health conditions in Camden, said: "Lots of people are still working out what the long-term symptoms are, but most people tend to have the fatigue; the brain fog, sometimes; not being able to think clearly or think as quickly as one used to before; and some people have these neurological symptoms.

"There are all sorts of symptoms, as well as ongoing breathlessness and fatigue. So all sorts of stuff people are struggling with and they just don't really either realise it's an ongoing, lasting effect or don't really know where to get help or where to go."

Training is being provided to GPs to provide primary care assessments for people experiencing symptoms which may be related to Covid. 

"This will include long Covid, but also, more generally, there have been lots of articles about this recently – how people are really struggling with just a sense of not being very motivated, feeling a bit depleted by the things that have been going on over the last few months, and just feeling this sense of disinterest and fatigue – Covid-related fatigue more generally," said Dr Eziefula.

"I think it's been a huge part of the picture, and if that's lingering and stopping people from being able to connect with the things that used to matter to them before, then they should maybe be thinking about accessing support going forward. 

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"So, feeling very demotivated and lacking in energy and drive might be concerning signs, I think for people. 

"And there are also people who are very anxious about reconnecting with other people now as well. We've all just been told we have to wash our hands frequently, not be in contact, not hug each other – all of those things – and then we're coming out of lockdown.

"So there are lots of people who are really struggling with feeling anxious about what it means to be in close contact with people again and how to do that in the best possible way, in the safest ways." 

Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health will signpost help for people struggling, but also explore how mental health relates to parenting, religion, comedy, gardening and food.

"Events like this are brilliant because it means that we are able to really put spotlight on people's wellbeing – their mental health and physical health," said Dr Eziefula.

"It's always really good to pay attention to those things and try and think about what you might need and what help is out there. So if there's any event that can help people connect to and services, and know what kind of support is out there then that's a good thing." 

Dr Phil Moore, who is co-chair of London’s Suicide Prevention Group, said: “For many of us, this has been the most challenging year of our lives. Given the unprecedented circumstances we are all going through, it is normal to feel upset, anxious or confused. But know that help and support are available if you need it.

“We are living through extraordinary times and it is easy to feel isolated, even with the easing of lockdown restrictions. The Ham&High’s online day of activities is a helpful opportunity to come together and raise awareness about the small things we can all do to support wellbeing and mental health individually and also in our communities. It has never been more important for each of us to think and talk more about mental health and wellbeing, and to seek help when it is needed.”

Ham&High: Our Community's Mental Health takes place on Friday, May 21 and is free to attend for anyone who registers through Eventbrite. The events, which will be held as Zoom webinars, will include expert advice, panel discussions and some entertainment along the way.

The event is supported by Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, Thrive LDN and SANE. It is sponsored by Barnet Fostering and UCL Academy.

To register for free, click here