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Coronavirus - How can people stay mentally healthy? Interview with Dr Heather Bolton, Unmind

Coronavirus - How can people stay mentally healthy? Interview with Dr Heather Bolton, Unmind
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Dr Heather Bolton, Head of Psychology at Unmind, talks about how individuals can look after themselves to stay mentally well and what organisations can to support their teams.


Over the coming weeks the CMHA will be putting out regular resources to help organisations support their colleagues during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Key takeaways can be found below and you can watch the full video here:

Key takeaways

1. How you can look after your mental health

There’s the real threat and there’s the psychological threat.

For the real threat   – take a practical approach. Follow  government advice  and  healthcare guidelines.

For the psychological threat  – think about what you can do to mitigate the psychological impact. When we face a threat, our fight or flight response   kicks in – this is designed to help us fight danger, or run away.

That’s what’s happening to lots of us right now. The alarm system is kicking in and we are all heightened in our sensitivity to threat. When we experience this, it’s harder to switch off, harder to relax and harder to sleep. We therefore need to bring that response down and calm ourselves. This can be done for example by engaging in physical activity to release adrenaline, or activities such as breathing exercises.

In addition, be cautious of how much time you are spending reading the news. When we are in a heightened state, we want to do things that reassure ourselves such as reading the news. Whilst this can help in the short-term, in the long-run it can heighten anxiety and keep our fight or flight response going. Therefore, be mindful of how much you are watching the news and from what sources. Notice the impact it’s having on you.

2. Companies will play an important role in this 

Heather advises companies to do the following to look after the mental wellbeing of their people:

  • Provide communication from the top ; let people know what’s going on and what the plans are. Doesn’t need to be constant communication;
  • Ensure people are connected –  How can your teams keep in touch? Can you do morning check ins? It doesn’t need to be focused on business;
  • Equip people with the right technology   to do their job and connect with each other;
  • Look after more vulnerable people ; check in a bit more directly with vulnerable people. For example, those who live on their own, or have a pre-existing mental health condition;
  • Clearly signpost to support;   make sure people know what support is available if it’s needed
  • Set boundaries;   make sure people are clear about their expectations, what they are meant to be doing and when. If you are a manager and sending emails out of hours, make sure your colleagues know that’s not expected from them.

Lastly, Heather says:

Remember this will end. As teams we will get through this and we will be stronger. We will be challenging some of the preconceptions we had about working. This can unite teams if it’s done in the right way.


If you are currently in need of support for your mental health, please see our help and advice lines.