This week (May 18 - 24) is Mental Health Awareness Week and here at Meningitis Now we are all too aware of the impact that serious and life-threatening illness can have on our mental health and well-being.
For those of you who may be struggling with ongoing emotional difficulties because of your meningitis experience, the current coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic may be especially challenging.
What is the mental health impact of a serious Illness like meningitis?
Over the years, people who have had a meningitis experience tell us that the impact on their mental health and well-being can be severe and long lasting, as the illness often changes lives forever. Dealing with life changing after-effects, or the death of someone important to us, is emotionally devastating and has a big impact on a person’s mental health.
Even when there is a complete physical recovery, people experience a range of emotional difficulties. The impact of meningitis, whatever the outcome, also affects the mental health of our family and friends. Emotional difficulties affect the way we think, feel and behave in every aspect of coping with our daily lives including personal relationships, work, how we socialise and sleep.
What are the most common mental health problems?
Common mental health problems (sometimes called mood disorders) include stress, anxiety, low mood and depression. It has been estimated that every week in the UK as many as 1 in 6 adults over the age of 16, experience symptoms of a common mental health problem such as anxiety or depression.
Download fundamental facts about mental health.
Meningitis and Anxiety
It is common to feel anxious following an experience of meningitis. Whilst feeling anxious or worried at certain times is normal, for example, taking an exam, it becomes emotionally difficult when it is hard to control the worries. Feeling anxious and distressed a lot of the time has a huge impact on our daily lives. When anxiety becomes difficult to manage, it can result in several disorders including ‘health anxiety’ and ‘panic attacks’.
“My anxiety is a result of the meningitis. It was so hard to deal with and I sometimes had panic attacks for no reason. I got so anxious and terrified of getting meningitis again.”
Finding the right help and support
One of the most important things to remember is that our mental health and well-being is not static and this applies to everyone. Therefore, getting the right help and support when you need it most is not a ‘one shoe fits all’ approach. Sometimes we have to try different things to find helpful strategies depending on how we are feeling. Whilst you may not be able to access treatment and support options right now due to the coronavirus epidemic, there are things that may help including self-care strategies.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is kindness matters – so be kind to yourself and others, as research shows that kindness and our mental health are deeply connected.
If you are finding it hard to cope right now, you are not alone. You can call our nurse-led helpline on 0808 80 10 388 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, as we are here to listen and help you talk through your worries and concerns. We are currently open 9.00am to 4.00pm Monday to Friday. If outside of those hours message us on our Facebook page.