Thursday 6 May 2021

A review of Covid-19 pandemic, Mental Health and Suicide

Hi there!

It has been said that 'human disasters come in all shapes and sizes including wars, terrorist violence, natural events, economic recessions and depressions as well as infection' (Devitt, 2020).                  2020, and so far into 2021, it is the latter scourge that has negatively impacted our world. 

Although some countries like India are still being ravaged by this dreadful virus, some people may be profoundly grateful that their own lives may be heading towards some degree of ease from lockdown pressures. However, we pray for the many globally who are still suffering at this time.

Imminently, the world will be celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week from 10 - 16 May 2021. For this reason, this month I would like for us to take some time together to reflect on the relationship between the pandemic, mental health and suicide. As human beings, we are always prone to disasters and troublesome situations which, in general, can have an adverse effect on our mental health, and if severe enough, impairment of mental health can lead to suicide.

It is now generally accepted that the presence of mental illness is a major factor but not the exclusive factor in the incidence of suicide. But what provokes an individual to engage in an act of suicide on any given date and time is a complex issue. It is likely that such a decision and act comprises ‘a perfect storm’ of personal, social and cultural factors, which include 'the presence of mental illness, perhaps a genetic pre-disposition, family history, certain personality traits (such as impulsivity), the availability of means, the abuse of alcohol or other substances, and a recent insoluble predicament' (Pridmore, 2010). 

The prolonged pandemic climate has been a major predicament for many. The restrictive pressures of  Draconic lockdowns to mitigate effects on healthcare systems, economic recession leading to lost employment and businesses, the accompanying isolation of home-working (sometimes in a domestically abusive environment), more opportunities to abuse substances and increase probability of addiction, bereavement and so many other adverse events which have decimated normality from our, what now seems, routine lives, have affected many persons' mental health to the point of hopelessness. 

Suicidal behaviour often increases demands on the Mental Health services. As a result, during the pandemic, it is possible that many who would normally seek help from medical clinics for depression and other forms of mental illness would avoid attending scheduled sessions to reduce the risk of flooding the already overstretched medical teams, or contracting the viral infection, or maybe some would have been told by a centralised service to seek help from local community mental health services, an option which may be laced with stigma for some persons. 

So how can support be focused? The after and side effects of this pandemic have to be monitored carefully, particularly in the area of mental health. Of all the current challenges presented by COVID-19, economic recession appears most toxic, drastically affecting the lives of many persons. Job loss coupled with isolation as a result from being at home due to the pandemic can severely distress mental health. It is therefore important to ensure some form of protective barrier around those who fall into this vulnerable group and who may be expected to experience an increase in suicidal ideation and behaviour.  

Some groups may be more vulnerable than others to post traumatic stress also leading to suicidal ideation and behaviours. Strict long-term measures must be in place from a governmental level to ensure that another type of pandemic, that is, mental illness, does not spill out and flood the globe.



Tuesday 30 March 2021

Coping with uncertainty.

Hi there!

Trust you have had a good month! 

Lately, I have been ruminating on how wonderful it would be to enjoy the freedom of sitting in my favourite coffee shop and enjoying quality time with a good book or conversations with my favourite people. The lockdown and ensuing restrictions have been playing havoc with the mental state of many.  

Mental stimulation plays a vital role in keeping our mood / emotions stable. The pandemic has placed us in a state of uncertainty where routine things are now not clearly identified or defined. We do not know how much of our 'norm' will return and we are certainly unclear at this stage as to what the 'new norm' will look like. 

The reality about the nature of uncertainty is that, as a notion, it is fundamentally a mental state; a subjective, cognitive experience of human beings rather than a feature of the objective, material world. Associated with the experience of uncertainty is ignorance, that is, the lack of knowledge. Importantly, uncertainty is not equivalent to mere ignorance; rather, uncertainty is the conscious awareness, or subjective experience of ignorance. According to Lipshitz and Strauss (1997), there are three types of uncertainty: inadequate understanding, incomplete information, and undifferentiated alternatives

So how do we cope with uncertainty? 

Lipshitz and Strauss (1997) applied five strategies of coping: reducing uncertainty, assumption-based reasoning, weighing pros and cons of competing alternatives, suppressing uncertainty, and forestalling. Inadequate understanding was primarily managed by reduction of uncertainty, incomplete information was primarily managed by assumption-based reasoning, and conflict among alternatives was primarily managed by weighing pros and cons.

The last year, 2020, and most of 2021 so far, has left many people feeling discombobulated due to changed home and workplace routines, social and employment status and engagements, even our spiritual lives are affected. Unless we are aware of our ignorance, it is unlikely to influence our thoughts, feelings, or actions. That is, we can influence our behaviours if we are aware that we lack knowledge. We do not have to get in a rut. We do not have to give in to unwanted emotions. If there is something missing or potentially missing in our lives and if we want to change that, we can do something about it by applying the model above. 

Uncertainty can mean a platform for doing things you have never done before whilst stabilising your environment and mood at the sane time. If you require counselling support to deal with uncertainty, make an appointment via our website



Saturday 27 February 2021

A solution focused method to prevent depression


Trust you are keeping well as we begin to see some signs of positive change, at least for some, in this pandemic period.

I am wondering if you have ever struggled to reach a solution for a problem that just seems to persist? Whether it's a personal or professional problem, a relationship challenge or a goal that just keeps slipping no matter how hard you try to make it happen! Trying to work out what to do may have kept you awake many nights, maybe even causing you to experience depression.

Because of the large number of people who have been experiencing depression during the pandemic and because of depression's potential seriousness, it is important to investigate possible effective preventative measures. As a counsellor, one of the areas I focus on is Solution-focussed Brief Therapy (SFBT). The therapeutic focus of SFBT is future oriented, specifically based on the client’s expressed aims or goals. In other words, I am told what problem area(s) the client needs help with, and together we work towards a solution. 

The process involves me asking questions designed to enable clients to visualize in detail their desired results, and identification of the client's strengths (do they have the capability and capacity to reach the goal?), resources (eg. money, materials, staff) and times when the problem is not in evidence. The latter is important because it is a barrier to progress and needs to be avoided.

At the end of a session, I would compliment the client based on what has emerged from our discussion and I will set homework which may involve asking the client to do more of what is already working, and less of what is not working towards the desired solution.

I hope this is helpful and I am available to help you reach a solution to a problem which you have been struggling with during the pandemic, or even earlier.



Wednesday 30 December 2020

What can you learn from your 'Go-To' position in 2020?


This is my last note for the year 2020. My word! It has been an interesting journey so far this year, has it not? I certainly did not expect the year to pan out the way it did as mentioned in a much earlier blog. However, through the many 'ups and downs', 'twists and turns' that I experienced, there have been a lot of great learning experiences. Over the months, I was able to observe various behaviours displayed by folks as they responded to challenges that were presented, be it as a result of the pandemic or otherwise. I share one 'go-to' position that got my, and that of most of the globe's, attention this year.

Most of us are aware of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations which took place, not only in the USA but in many other parts of the globe.  The demonstrations were a response by Black Lives Matter's activists and followers to the horrendous murders of black men and women, particularly in the USA. It was obvious that there was outrage as a result of a perceived injustice, so much so that people who would not normally be publicly vocal, joined the thousands to demand justice for the black lives lost prematurely. 

The demonstrators reminded me of leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and to some extent Mother Teresa, who engaged in self-sacrificial behaviours during difficult times. What makes these persons admirable leaders is the reason behind their sacrifices are obvious in a very uncomfortable, uncertain environment.

As human beings, our behaviours are conditioned by our thoughts, motives, identities and our interactions with others. The way we choose to behave or react to a particular situation, helps us to understand ourselves better, on reflection.

This year helped me to become more self-aware than ever. Knowing what thoughts and actions felt appropriate and which ones to remove myself from have made me more empowered to deal with crises. Listening to the various feedback on the demonstrations helped me to evaluate my 'go-to' position. In general, knowing which battles to fight and which ones to walk away from is an empowering feat. 

As you close out 2020, and reflect on some of the behavioural choices you made, what was your natural 'go to' position? What new thing have you learnt about yourself when experiencing a crisis situations? Do you need to change any aspect of yourself as you move into 2021?

I hope that the New Year will be one of growth for you. May you be positively transformed because of what you overcame in 2020, and be inspired to help another to rise.



Tuesday 1 December 2020

Benefits of exercise


How the time has run away and how have I spent the last month running after it :)

One of the pleasant victories of the pandemic season for me is being able to maintain a strict exercise routine... even when other temptingly attractive options popped into my head. I have missed the routine of my local gym in England and the wonderful friends I connected with on those visits. I say friends, because they were super encouragers when the pace got red hot and my Costa 'choccie' created voice bubbles over my head. 

Yet, I am very happy to say that the exercise regime over the past months of lockdown has encouraged me to keep pressing forward even though the journey was done solo, without those valued friends. But how I miss my gym and Zumba buddies!

How about you? Have you, like me, been enjoying the benefits of the YouTube exercise videos? Do you have a favourite someone you like to train with?

On a serious note, there are two important points that I want to share in this blog.

Firstly, very many persons have suffered from depression or some form of mental challenge as a consequence of the pandemic. For example, in the UK, according to the ONS, adults aged 16 to 39 years old were more likely than other adults to be experiencing some form of depression during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Around one in three (31.0%) 16- to 39-year-olds experienced moderate to severe depressive symptoms during this time. This compared with one in nine (10.9%) before the pandemic. 

When persons suffering from depression approach the primary care setting,  they are generally treated with pharmacologic therapy alone, which often takes weeks to kick in. Research has shown that when exercise is used as an intervention in cognitive-behavioural therapy, treatment outcomes are greatly improved, symptoms of depression are alleviated. Exercise works.

Secondly, let us remember to show gratitude to our friends and families. Let us recognize their value. Let them know how much you value them. Don't leave it until it is too late.

Until next time,


Friday 30 October 2020

Managing change - Part 2

                                                    Challenges from the 'new' normal 

Hi again,

I hope September and October were filled with some good experiences for you. So many milestones were reached since I last wrote, nine family members' birthdays, and mine! For life, I am thankful! 

In this blog, I want to continue to talk about change and the impact it can have on our lives. As I write, some countries in Europe, including the UK, are experiencing a second wave of the Covid-19, with the virus, according to the World Health Organization, evolving in new and different ways. However, some countries are beginning to open their borders for international travel. 

One of the greatest conundrums is if we will ever return to life as we knew it, that is, pre-Covid-19. Just today I spoke with someone whose frustrations were evident from the statements: "Beginning to feel the restrictions of this lockdown season we are in...I dream of different climates...New scenery and much more fun than we are having...There's so much we just can't do it's becoming annoying."               I empathize sincerely. 

Many visions have been put on hold, or even died, while persons wait for things to return to 'normal'. But what will that return to normalcy look like?   Will it ever be 'normal' again, as we knew it? What I believe is that we should live each moment that we are given in a way that shows we value life as it is now. The past is gone, history. After coming through 2020, we certainly cannot be 100% assured of the future, but we can be hopeful. However, we must live today the best way we can: loving God, loving others and loving ourselves. We can continue to dream of a better, brighter future and have hopes for our visions to be attained one day. But live today, being the best you. In the words of Shelby Condo, 'If we can learn anything from this pandemic, I hope it is to value the moments, treasure the memories, and hold on to what counts... Life is a gift.' 

Today, take the time to love and enjoy family and friends, even if they are socially distant, and reflect on how far you have come. Build a legacy of love and watch the transformation happen around you. 

Jo-Ann Rowland

Sunday 23 August 2020

Managing change (Part 1)


There is at least one solid constant and that is, nothing is permanent except change.Change will always be with us. 2020 has so far been a year of great change, change which has manifested as upheaval, anger, displacement, loss of many lives, and yet, opportunities to be a better person, generally. 

For me, as mentioned in an earlier blog, the change I am experiencing, as a result of the pandemic, is mostly about displacement. As I write, I was expecting to be celebrating major milestones in the lives of key family members in the UK this month. However, I am barred from being home because three airports that are critical to my return home, are closed. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many hopes and dreams, like mine, have been affected. Separation from friends and loved ones can bring feelings of loneliness, especially when linked to disappointment and loss. When hope fades, people can lose heart and doubts begin to grow. What we do very often, is to spend too much valuable time wallowing in the 'If onlys' and neglecting the opportunities that will make us grow in the face of difficulties.

So what do you do when things do not work out as planned? What do you do when your hopes are dashed? When things are not as you feel they should be, it is time to change your thinking. It is important to acknowledge the current situation. Identify what exists that you want to change. Importantly, identify what you want to change it to and any roadblocks along the way. List what you will have to do to get to your desired state and what may bar you for each item listed. How will you overcome the barriers? What you write must be a list of realistic, that is, attainable objectives. The time you give yourself to obtain these objectives is critical. If you specify too short a time to achieve too big a goal, the result will be disappointment and you will lose motivation to move towards the change you want to see. Do not forget to celebrate each achievement along the way.

To protect your entire well-being, take time to focus on you and work towards getting the results you want.