The last few months have posed all kinds of challenges, particularly when it comes to mental health. Due to Covid restrictions, our social interactions have decreased, at times resulting in feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation. Those with existing addiction issues likely struggled as resources became temporarily unavailable, while others may have found themselves increasingly relying on drugs or alcohol to deal with the uncertainties of lockdown.

“There’s lots of research being done on the impacts of Covid on mental health”, says Clinical Psychologist Seè°©n Foy, from Learning Curve. “We’re all feeling it, to a degree. If you have an addiction though, it makes it that bit harder.” As he explains, the isolation of lockdown means those in recovery have extra time on their hands – time usually spent availing of services and maintaining a carefully created routine. “If you’re struggling with addiction, structure and routine are very important”, according to Seè°©n. It’s important therefore to try to continue to do all the things that were working before, even if they’re the ‘lockdown versions’…

Maintaining Routine

For anyone feeling stressed because of lockdown, Seè°©n recommends three key areas to focus on. “First of all, try to get a good night’s sleep. Then, make sure you have a healthy diet, and get a small bit of exercise a couple times a week.” For those dealing with more severe mental health issues, alcoholism or addiction, Seè°©n notes that help is still there, despite coronavirus. “There’s loads of services available but they’re virtual. I’ve got clients who see me online once a week, and then link into a number of other support services too. I prefer face-to-face meetings, but right now it’s just not possible.” AA Ireland is running online meetings, as is LifeRing who, Seè°©n explains, use a more cognitive model to deal with cravings and addiction.

Family Support

What about family members who might be feeling helpless as a loved one struggles with alcoholism or addiction during lockdown? “Oftentimes, family are the ones who really suffer”, according to Seè°©n. “The person with the addiction gets a lot of support – which is appropriate – but families can be left behind. And the impact on them is heartbreaking.” Again, Seè°©n notes that there are lots of services available. Al-Anon is a great support group for families of alcoholics, as is CRAFT, while the Family Support Network assists those living with substance misuse. “Families often aren’t aware of these services, as they’re too preoccupied and concerned with the person who has the addiction to look after themselves,” explains Seè°©n. “But there are lots of fantastic services dotted all around the country, so it’s easy to link in with them if you’re concerned.”

These are unsettling times for all of us. If you’re worried about yourself, a friend or family member who might be struggling with the pressures of lockdown, don’t be afraid to reach out to one of the great resources listed above.

The Healthy Minds benefit is provided by LifeWorks by Morneau Shepell. This is only available to members who are 16 years old and over. If your telephone counsellor deems it clinically appropriate, up to 6 face to face counselling sessions may be arranged through LifeWorks.