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Living with coronavirus is hard for most, but for some it’s a nightmare

Saturday May 23 2020

mental health

Stress under the pandemic has prompted widespread concerns about mental health, including suicide. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GERRY LOUGHRAN
By GERRY LOUGHRAN
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Standing in a shopping queue, nine-year-old Kelvin Maughan began screaming and punching his head.

Other shoppers glared angrily and tutted their disapproval. Kelvin’s mother, Angela, wept quietly.

Shopping has become a strain for everyone under coronavirus rules, but what those in line did not know was that Kelvin is autistic and for him such experiences are a nightmare.

“When he starts screaming and punching himself, it is because he is anxious,” Angela said. “I have to wrap myself around him and he punches me.”

Autism is a condition that makes it difficult for victims to interact and communicate socially. Many with the condition need to adhere to a strict routine, often down to the minutest detail.

Angela said, “Kelvin will eat carrots but only if they are already cut as batons – if they are a different shape, he freaks out.

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He will eat grapes and chicken nuggets but only from Sainsbury’s supermarkets, and he will only eat thin ham from Tesco’s.”

Anti-virus social-distancing rules mean people have to queue up outside shops but because this makes Kelvin panic, Angela has been forced to bypass their usual shops and look for retailers where queues are minimal.

SELF-HELP GROUP

One she found at a local petrol station. But even there, she encountered problems when Kelvin became disturbed.

“People were looking and judging but the woman in the garage said I could go ahead of the others. I burst out crying because she was so nice.”

Angela, a single mother, is herself autistic. She said, “When I get back home from shopping, I feel sick, exhausted. I need to shut my sensors down. I close the curtains and sit in silence.”

Her experiences have prompted Angela to set up a self-help group, Auntie Mates, in Gateshead where she lives, for teenagers and adults living with autism.

“I know that everyone is stressed right now because of the pandemic,” she said. “But for some of us with other issues, it is causing even more anxiety than usual.

“I am highlighting this as I want to tell people that some of us are struggling, those of us with disabilities. I’m asking people to be understanding.”

* *

Stress under the pandemic has prompted widespread concerns about mental health, including suicide.

In the past three weeks alone, some 503,000 people in the UK contacted the Zero Suicide Alliance for online training that aims to prevent suicide.

A 20-minute programme aims to help spot signs that a person may need help. The training leads users through the skills they might need to help someone who may be considering suicide.

Alliance spokesman Joe Rafferty said: “The stress and worry of the coronavirus is bound to have impacted people’s mental health. Suicide is a serious public health issue.”

The National Health Service launched a mental health hotline last month to support staff.

* * *

The silver, four-door saloon appeared without warning on a narrow city road, deliberately blocking an approaching automobile. Four men flung open the doors and raced towards their stalled target.

The place was South Africa and this was a car hijacking caught on CCTV.

Before the robbers could reach their prey, however, a volley of shots rang out, ear-splitting in the confined space. Then another. Then more.

Terrified, the robbers turned tail and fled, abandoning their own car as shots followed them in their flight.

Nobody fell, however, and nobody was injured because these were not real gunshots. This was the latest security device against car thieves – a horn that imitates gunfire.

Oh, how they did run!

* * *

In just 30 years, robots will be raising our children, according to an expert in Artificial Intelligence.

“By 2050, parenting as we know it will be entirely optional,” said Dr Michelle Tempest of the healthcare strategy company, Candesic.

“Upbringing centres” will use AI to feed, educate and entertain children, she predicted, adding that pregnant mothers will not even have to carry babies, thanks to an artificial uterus.

“Human parents would no longer be necessary to raise a child. They will become as obsolete as floppy disks,” Dr Tempest said.

But she warned, “We simply don’t understand at the moment how society will be affected by technology.”

* * *

Reports say another person has died because of the coronavirus. In his house, they found 1,000 cans of foodstuffs, 50 kilos of pasta, 80 kilos of rice, 300 toilet rolls and 50 litres of hand sanitiser, all of which he panic-bought when the virus hit.

Police said the whole lot collapsed and buried him.

Just joking!

* * *

But seriously: the virus has proved that everything around us is temporary. The things our lives revolved around – work, gym, shopping, movies, society – have gone and we are learning to live without them. Has it taught us that in the end, it’s our own home that keeps us safe?

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