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How Hard Is It To Ask, ‘‘Are You Okay?’’

How hard is it to ask, ‘are you okay?’

Suicide is one of the most common causes of premature deaths amongst people who have a mental illness. Every year approximately 703,000 people take their own life and a more significant number attempt suicide. Here, we tackle some questions regarding this difficult subject, which we hope will help you or a loved one:

  • What do we know about suicide? 
  • What are some myths about suicide?
  • Does one signal warnings before committing suicide? 
  • How to recognise if someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, and how to help them? 
  • How critical is the situation?
What drives so many people to take their lives?
 

For those who haven’t experienced depression and despair, it’s sometimes challenging to understand what leads to suicidal thoughts. It’s usually an attempt to escape unbearable suffering or pain. 

Often, the people who are led to suicide are blinded by hopelessness, loneliness, self-loathing, without any form of escape outside of death.

What are the Myths and Facts about committing suicide?

Myth: There is no way of stopping someone determined to commit suicide.

Fact: People don’t attempt suicide because they want to die but because they want the pain to stop

Suicide is preventable. Even if someone is severely depressed or in pain, their thoughts about ending their life do change. Hence, immediate practical help like staying with the person, providing them assurance and comfort, encouraging them and making future plans can divert their intention from attempting to take their life.

“They’re doing great. Life is wonderful. How could they even contemplate suicide?’ But you don’t know what’s going on inside of someone?”

Myth: Suicidal talk is childish and most often just to seek attention.

Fact: Any suicidal talk or behaviour has to be taken seriously.

It is not just a warning sign that someone could be thinking about suicide.  It could be a cry for help.

The following actions could be signs that someone is contemplating suicide: 

  • Talking about suicide
  • Self-destructive behaviour 
  • Hopelessness towards the future
  • Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
  • Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs

The best way to help prevent suicide is by noticing these signs and acting upon them immediately.

Myth: Reaching out to ask if someone is okay when going through a difficult period may not be helpful, especially if they won’t respond.

Fact: It’s okay to ask, “are you okay” and not know what to say after that.

Providing advice and solutions to a person who is contemplating suicide is not always the answer. Most often, all they need is someone to listen to them. Listening is very powerful, and it validates the emotions that someone is feeling

Myth: Non-experts should not help suicidal people.

Fact: One doesn’t have to be an expert to ask if someone is okay.

In fact, there is no need to treat the problem at all. All that’s required from a friend or loved one is to be present and then guide them to someone who can help.

If you are or know of someone who may be contemplating suicide, it may be helpful to guide them to speak with a mental health professional on oDoc. They then have the flexibility of speaking from the comfort & privacy of their home. To consult, please download the oDoc app here. For additional resources, please visit http://www.suicide.org/hotlines/international/sri-lanka-suicide-hotlines.html 

Know that secrets can kill.

If someone confides in you about their plans of suicide and requests confidentiality, please note you may need to break this confidentiality to help save their life. 

It is always better to have your loved ones alive yet angry with you than keeping their secret safe, leading to them taking their lives.

 “Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse; it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting any better.”

 

Sources

  1. Suicide prevention, HelpGuide (2020)
  2. Suicide and Suicide Prevention: Understanding the risk factors, prevention, and how you can help yourself or someone who is struggling right now, Psycom (2021)
  3. 7 common suicide myths—debunked, Aetna (2021)
  4. The Myths and Facts of Youth Suicide, Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) Office of Suicide Prevention
  5. Warning signs of suicide, Save (2021)
  6. Suicide, World Health Organisation (2021)
  7. Fears that stop the question ‘are you okay?’, Sane Australia (2017)
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Children, COVID19 and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome – The What’s What

Children, COVID19 and Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome - The What’s What

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Parents around the world, including Sri Lanka, have been concerned about Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome or MIS-C appearing in children who have been diagnosed with COVID19. In this article, we break down what’s known, what remains unknown and the steps to take if you suspect your child could be suffering from MIS-C.

What is MIS-C?

MIS-C is a condition where different parts of the body can become inflamed including the heart, lungs, brain, eyes, kidneys or gastrointestinal tract. 

It appears in children who have had or been around someone who has been diagnosed with COVID19. It’s considered to be a potentially serious condition, developing as a delayed complication of COVID19. Data shows that it usually develops two to six weeks after children have recovered from the virus. It can even develop in those children who were asymptomatic to COVID19. 

What are the symptoms of MIS-C?

Call your regular paediatrician or an on-demand paediatrician or family doctor at anytime on the oDoc app if your child is experiencing:

  • A fever and any of the following symptoms:
    • Abdominal pain
    • Bloodshot eyes
    • Chest tightness/pain
    • Diarrhoea
    • Extra fatigue or feeling unusually weak or dizzy
    • Headache
    • Low blood pressure
    • Neck pain
    • Rash 
    • Vomiting

If your child is showing any of the following signs, please seek emergency care immediately

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Continuous pain or pressure in the chest
  • Inability to stay awake or alert
  • Pale, grey or blue coloured skin, lips or nail bed

This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms, please call a medical professional immediately if any other signs or symptoms appear that are severe or concerning to you. 

Please call 1990 for the Suwa Seriya ambulance service.

Can MIS-C be treated?

Doctors will conduct diagnostics tests on your child to look for inflammation and other signs of disease. Once diagnosed, doctors will closely monitor your child and use a variety of medications to reduce inflammation and protect the affected organs. 

It is vital to seek medical care at the earliest indication of MIS-C. 

What are the unknowns?

There are still a lot of questions out there such as why do some recovered children develop MIS-C and others do not? What health factors could contribute to MIS-C? 

Scientists are working hard to answer these questions and we will update this blog as and when new research is published. 

And finally…

The best way to protect your child from MIS-C is to protect your household from COVID19, this includes:

  • Getting all adults in the household vaccinated at the first opportunity to do so
  • Continuing to mask when interacting with others from different households
  • Washing hands often with soap and water
  • Conducting play dates within a social bubble and in an outdoor environment

If you are concerned about COVID19 or MIS-C and would like medical advice, please consult a pediatrician or family doctor on the oDoc app. Click here to download the app.

Sources

  1. For Parents: Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) associated with COVID-19, CDC.gov website (2021)

  2. Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), Boston Children’s Hospital (2021)

  3. MIS-C and COVID-19: Rare Inflammatory Syndrome in Kids and Teens, Johns Hopkins Medicine (2021)

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Long COVID: What we know so far

Long COVID: What we know so far

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Since May 1st, over 300,000 cases of COVID-19 been diagnosed in Sri Lanka. We are mostly familiar with the short term symptoms of the disease (e.g. fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose to name a few). Most have recovered but ca. 8,700 persons have died at the time of writing. Some have seen symptoms persist for a longer period, a condition globally known as long COVID. In this article, we break down what we know so far about long COVID.

What is long COVID?

The UK’s National Health Service describes long COVID as having symptoms that continue for more than 12 weeks after initial diagnosis which cannot be attributed to another illness.

The UK COVID Symptom study found that 1 in 7 adults experienced symptoms for longer than 4 weeks and 1 in 20 adults experienced symptoms beyond the 8 week mark.

long COVID

What are the common symptoms of long COVID?

There are over 200 symptoms that have been reported that affect various organs in the body from the brain to the skin. Symptoms vary from person to person.

Most common symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Brain fog (problems with memory or concentration)
  • Joint pain
  • Changes to taste or smell
  • Shortness of breath, heart palpitations and chest tightness

Other symptoms range from hallucinations, insomnia, hearing and sight changes, gastrointestinal problems to changes in periods and skin conditions².

Those that experience long COVID have described it as “a storm. One day you can have zero symptoms … then it will just go crazy and as quickly as it hits you it can go.”³

What makes some people prone to long COVID whilst others recover quickly?

The science is still out on exactly why some people suffer for longer. Persons experiencing long COVID are not thought to be infectious but one theory is that the body continues to respond to small amounts of the virus that remains in the body & become reactivated. Another theory is that the infection causes some people’s bodies to go into overdrive, attacking its own tissues.

The COVID symptom study¹ had also found that those who experienced a milder version of COVID19 are more prone to long COVID over an extended period of time.

There is evidence that the following categories of people may be more prone than others:

  • Women
  • Older adults
  • People with pre-existing asthma
  • People who had a wider range of symptoms during their initial illness

Can children get long COVID?

A recent study by King’s College London found that for most children, COVID tends to be a mild, short illness. The 1,500 subject study reported that the average duration of symptoms for a child is six days and fewer than 1 in 50 children are unwell after eight weeks.

How long does it take to recover from long COVID?

Recovery estimates vary but most people with long-COVID are able to live life as relatively normal. However, It is important to get healthcare advice from a trusted professional, listen to your body and rest as much as possible when symptoms flare up.

Are there any treatments available?

Large studies are underway to better understand the nature of this secondary condition. As the 216m persons infected with COVID around the world recover, their experiences help shed light on the disease.

Whilst there are no specific treatments available, the focus is on managing symptoms and enabling a slow return to normal activity.

Nutrient rich foods rich with vitamins & minerals that support the immune system are deemed beneficial and experts encourage patients to eat a holistic, well rounded diet.

Worried you may be suffering from long COVID?

If you are experiencing any new or worsening symptoms, especially 4-8 weeks post your initial COVID-19 diagnosis, speak to a doctor on oDoc. Your doctor will discuss your symptoms and if necessary, order clinical tests to rule out other causes. They will provide guidance on how to best manage your symptoms.

If you are worried or anxious about COVID19 or long COVID, speak to a mental health professional on oDoc.

Click here to download the oDoc app to your mobile device.

Sources:

  • COVID Symptom Study, 2020 How long does COVID-19 last? ZOE COVID Study, UK
  • Davis, H et al., (2021) Characterizing long COVID in an international cohort: 7 months of symptoms and their impact. The Lancet
  • Guardian, UK., 2020, Lingering and painful: the long and unclear road to coronavirus recovery.
  • COVID Symptom Study, (2020) Do children get long COVID? ZOE Covid Study, UK
  • Molteni et al., (2021).,Illness duration and symptom profile in symptomatic UK school-aged children tested for SARS-CoV-2., The Lancet
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