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Coronavirus: NHS chiefs warn mental health patients not to use alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety

Sectioned patients restricted to one visit a day from next of kin or carer

23 March, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Dr Vincent Kirchner

NHS chiefs have warned mental health patients suffering from psychiatric not to use alcohol and drugs as a coronavirus coping mechanism.

Hundreds of vulnerable patients in Camden have had their support network disrupted as hospital wards and clinics shut down to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Patients sectioned in Highgate Mental Health Centre are being restricted to one visit a day from their next of kin or primary carer.

For the many patients being cared for “in the community”, telephone or video consultations have been set up instead of a face-to-face meetings while group therapy sessions have also been stopped.

There is a fear that heightened anxiety about the measures, coupled with government advice about social isolation, will cause anxiety and mood disorder conditions to worsen.

The medical director of Camden and Islington Foundation NHS Trust, Dr Vincent Kirchner, said this was a “very difficult time for all our service users”, adding: “The World Health Organisation has issued advice for anyone feeling anxious about the effect of the virus. It suggests you try to eat and sleep well, take part in physical activity, stay in contact with loved ones and avoid using alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms.

“There is also advice that suggests that you limit the amount of news that you watch or read and that, if isolated, you keep in regular contact with friends and family using the phone, messaging or video technology.”

Mental health charity Mind has also published advice for patients struggling to cope with coronavirus.

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