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June 2020 Kenyon Journal Excerpt

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Below is an excerpt from the latest Kenyon Journal. Click Here to download the full issue. 

Psychological Resilience in a Pandemic: Is it achievable? 

By Otibho Edeke-Agbareh, Kenyon Humanitarian Services Manager

“There is no health without mental health” were the words famously used by Dr. Brook Chisholm, the first Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO). As the world deals with a global pandemic, the topic of mental health and its impact on the world has never been more critical.

Mental health is the invisible aspect of our health; it is not something we can touch or see, yet it plays a vital role in our ability to complete the activities of daily living. Mental health is not merely the absence of mental health disorders or symptoms; it is a state of overall wellbeing and productivity.

However, amid a global pandemic, how do you attain this state of overall wellbeing and productivity? Especially when fear and anxiety seem to be spreading just as quickly as the virus itself. In answer to this, the United Nations, on the 14th May 2020, launched the UN policy brief-COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health. It came with a stark warning that there could be as much as a three-fold increase globally in the number of people experiencing mental vulnerability.

Tackling mental vulnerabilities

Mental vulnerabilities have manifested themselves through elevated rates of stress and anxiety, which are normal reactions to an ever-changing and uncertain world. These feelings have been exacerbated by measures such as quarantine that, although necessary in reducing the risk of infection, has inevitably impacted people’s ability to carry out meaningful activities, routines and livelihoods. This, in turn, has increased rates of loneliness, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, self-harm and suicidal behaviour. Studies by the Lancet suggest that the most at-risk group are frontline health workers, young people, adolescents, people with pre-existing mental health conditions and those living in the midst of any conflict or crisis. So, it is fair to say by looking at this list that there may not be a single person whose mental health isn’t impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acknowledging this, how do we insulate ourselves from an unfolding stressful situation? The good news is that, as humans, we have remarkable fortitude and resilience in the face of adversity and crisis. What is resilience and how do we acquire it? In an article by Christy-Belle Geha on psychological resilience, Ghida Husseini, a counselling psychologist, defines resilience as not a synonym of coping but as “the ability to bend with the wind, to flow with the current, to bounce back from a shock, whereas coping is the ability to manage difficult and challenging conditions. Our resilience increases as we learn to cope.”

Building coping mechanisms into our daily routine

For us to attain psychological resilience, we must build coping strategies into our daily routine. This will make it easier for us to cope consistently with this pandemic but also with the daily stressors that occur in everyday life...

For the complete article and more on crisis management, download the full Kenyon Journal.

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