Dr Alia Fahmy, one of our leading Cotswolds GPs has issued urgent advice and guidance in the wake of an alarming rise in cases of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed that one in five adults in the UK have experienced some form of depression since the outbreak of coronavirus, almost double the figures for last year.
The news has prompted a swift response from Dr Fahmy, who fears the virus will also spark a long-term mental health issue across the UK.
Dr Fahmy said: “People’s lives have been changed beyond recognition in the fight against coronavirus and, even if we find a vaccine soon, there will still be a long-term knock-on effect on the nation’s mental health.
“There’s a significant social aspect to the pandemic because COVID-19 has caused such widespread fear and anxiety and left a lot of people afraid to go out and put themselves at risk.
“We’ve also seen a big rise in the number of people working remotely from home, away from all the usual contact and interaction with their colleagues and contacts.
“As a result, people have lost their sense of normality and this can have a major impact on your mental health.”
Her big concern is that people will not fully understand or acknowledge that impact.
She added: “You may not realise you are depressed. It’s very easy to think depression is sobbing yourself to sleep every night but it actually manifests itself in various different forms and the onset can be very subtle.
“You might be struggling to get through the day at work or you’re going home and doing nothing because you’ve lost the motivation or the sense of enjoyment in everything.
“You’re suddenly reluctant to do the things you would have done automatically and without thinking in the past.
“These are symptoms of depression too and people need to understand this. They also need to understand that depression is incredibly common so they should not feel ashamed or embarrassed.
“What they should do is acknowledge they have a problem and contact their doctor for help and advice.”
Dr Fahmy has also offered reassurance that GPs won’t simply respond by handing out anti-depressant medication to help tackle the issue.
She said: “There’s a whole variety of ways to counter depression and many of them don’t come out of a bottle full of anti-depressants.
“A few simple life-style changes can be a real help – making the effort to get out more, to have contact with other people, to do some exercise and diet is hugely important – so make a rainbow on your plate with lots of vegetables and fruit.
“Alcohol is not a good idea. It may seem a way to chill out and make yourself feel better, but the fact is alcohol is a massive depressant so can heighten the problem.
“There are some excellent support services available too – like Run Talk Run, Mood Gym and charities like Mind and Heads Together.
“There’s also expert counselling and psychotherapy sessions available and, of course, there is medication. Most often it’s a combination of these things that can make a lasting difference.”