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Resilience can defeat virus, experts say

A supplied image shows Macquarie University MindSpot clinic Executive Director, Professor Nick Titov posing for a photograph. (AAP Image/Supplied by Macquarie University) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Macquarie University MindSpot clinic Executive Director, Professor Nick Titov (AAP Image/Supplied by Macquarie University)

Many of us have already lost or fear losing our jobs, others have fallen sick and some have even died. Everyone has been dislocated from family and friends without knowing for how long.

What might not be so apparent, though, is that COVID-19 has exacted a huge toll on us emotionally too.

MindSpot, Australia's first free national online mental health clinic, has seen a huge uptick in people accessing its services since the coronavirus crisis began.

There's been a 75 per cent jump in its personal interactions with clients, a doubling of hits on its websites and more than a quarter-of-a-million worried Australians are visiting its Facebook and Instagram pages daily.

The clinic's director, Macquarie University psychology professor Nick Titov, says his staff are hearing from people who can't sleep, are anxious, on edge, teary, exhausted, hyper-vigilant towards signs of the virus or at the other end of the spectrum, overwhelmed by the everyday deluge of bad news.

"With all those physical symptoms come psychological worries and concerns, fears that we aren't doing well, that the world isn't safe anymore or that the future isn't safe," Prof Titov told AAP.

"But all of that is normal.

"One thing this pandemic is highlighting is our shared humanity. It doesn't matter which culture in the world we belong to, we are experiencing similar fears and worries."

Indeed the good news is that there are things we can all do, achievable tasks we can practice each day to help wrest back control of our lives.

While we're feeling lonely and stranded away from regular support networks, MindSpot has devised a 'top 10' list endorsed by the federal government for coping with what has become the 'new normal'.

It includes things like making sure we're informed with the right information, being organised in all we do, preserving healthy routines, doing fun activities and constantly reminding ourselves our troubles will fade.

Prof Titov says the key phrase is "resilience".

"Be kind to yourself and recognise that it's a tough time, shut out negative distractions. If you're wound up physically, do something to relax, some exercise, some stretching; take a hot bath.

"When you write down your worries, divide them into things you can do something about and those you can't. Tackle the first and accept the second."

For some, COVID-19 hasn't had the same upending impact the rest of us are experiencing because they lead fairly isolated lives anyway.

There are those with pre-existing mental health issues and also the victims of summer's bushfire disaster and back-to-back seasons of drought.

Then there are our frontline health and services industry workers - nurses, paramedics, doctors, cabbies, teachers, childcare staff and supermarket employees - who are exposed to ongoing threat and uncertainty.

Prof Titov says everyone has surprised him with their willingness to ask for help.

All of them need information: advice on where to get medical treatment or testing; access to financial support; tips on dealing with isolation, handling small kids cooped up at home or the welfare of neighbours.

Some just want to talk.

© AAP 2020

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