I survived COVID-19. Now let's talk about the mental health crisis it has exacerbated

I survived COVID-19. Now let's talk about the mental health crisis it has exacerbated

Research is suggesting that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is likely leading to a drastic rise in suicide attempts, along with the risk of mental health issues both in survivors and people affected by the impacts of lockdown measures.

At the same time, physical distancing is endangering mental health even as it protects physical health.

While living in LA I contracted coronavirus and have only just recovered. Despite the myth many young people believe, I can tell you it was nothing like having the flu or a mild cold.

It was on 23 June that I first  had any symptoms, the first one being a fever. That morning I went to the gym, had a productive day, worked from home, felt pretty good, nothing sort of felt wrong. But my girlfriend Nadia was bad that day - she had a fever in the morning and didn't feel well.

I hoped that it wasn't the coronavirus, but that night I started breaking out into a really bad sweat; I think I slept maybe an hour, I didn't know what was going on. It was the first time I'd had a fever in a long time, and I didn't want to panic too much straight up, but the next day I also started suffering really bad muscle pain, especially in my lower back. The best way to explain it is I felt like someone was putting a short, sharp blade in my lower back; a sharp pain, excruciating, that hit me out of nowhere.

I very rarely get headaches ever, but the day after I woke up and my head was thumping. Nadia hadn't lost her taste or smell but I had a complete loss of taste and smell and my appetite disappeared. I started doing research, and I thought this must be the coronavirus.

Nadia and I were crippled with headaches, fevers, body aches and pains. In a way I hoped I'd got it so that I'd know what I'm dealing with, because I'd never experienced anything like that feeling in my life.

It wasn't until we got our test on day 4 and it came back in 24 hours that we knew we had both tested positive to COVID-19.

After losing my sense of smell I sort of hoped I had it so that I'd know what I was dealing with. Day 6 was a very scary day for me in particular when my vision was literally disappearing, my eyesight was blurry, and I just felt horrible.

I was fortunate enough though not to suffer the heavy respiratory problems. It wasn't until I had recovered (and on doctors' orders) that I was able to leave the house again to go for a walk that I realised that my lungs still weren't working at full capacity.

Everyone's body is different, and this virus really rocked me. I underestimated it big time.

We have all heard on the news that it's just like the flu, with flu-like symptoms, but I can tell you right now, for me, coronavirus was nothing like the flu. The problems and the pain and the lethargy in the body is much worse than what I've experienced with the flu. It doesn't even compare.

For people who are more vulnerable, who have underlying health problems, who aren't as fit and healthy and might be older, I understand why they are dying at such an alarming rate.  However, it is very important that during the challenging and uncertain times that we are in, that we must remain calm, vigilant and prioritise our mental health. Self-care is number one care.

Globally, suicide is one of the leading causes of death. The numbers for the second half of this year are likely to be even more shocking as the interactive graph shows on this link.

It's important that we don't just talk about the virus, but that we widen the discussion to the mental health impacts that survivors are left trying to cope with - the stigma, the fear, the effect of isolation and the stressors that this brings.

Regardless of whether you get the virus or not, the impacts of this pandemic are taking a toll on all of us, and we need to support mental well-being and resilience against the fallout this situation is bringing to families and the wider economy, which ultimately can affect all of us.

For many young men and women, they're now bearing the brunt of the highest unemployment rates, the futures they studied and trained for are now dramatically affected and set back, they also look into a future of having to be the ones that spend the bulk of their working lives repaying the national debt. They need to know they're not alone.

For every death by suicide in Australia, it is estimated that as many as 30 people attempt to end their lives - a distressing 65,000 per year.

I co-founded LIVIN in 2013 in honour of my good friend Dwayne Lally who like many others took his life after living in silence from a mental illness. If anyone needs support and is struggling, please remember it ain't weak to speak, because we're all in this together and being able to communicate how we're feeling is so crucial to reducing the mental health toll of the virus and the aftermath.

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