“I feel like death on legs”: COVID-19 isolation and mental health

Herat, Manel (2020) “I feel like death on legs”: COVID-19 isolation and mental health. Social Sciences and Humanities Open, 2 (1). pp. 1-8. ISSN 2590-2911

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This study investigates the personal and collective responses to COVID-19, as it is described in British personalstories and newspaper reports from Britain and Sri Lanka and examines the social and economic impact of thepandemic on different societies. Although some studies have been done on the impact of COVID-19, none of thesestudies have focused specifically on the impact the coronavirus has had on different societies because of the globallockdown and restrictions on people’s movements. This study attempts to address this gap in the literature byfocusing on how the language used in a corpus of personal stories and newspaper reports collected over a span ofone month, reveal the impact of COVID-19 on two societies by investigating how self-isolation and lockdown isleading to mental health breakdown in individuals and affecting wider social and economic collapse. The data wasanalysed using corpus linguistics methodology such as keyword analysis using AntConc (Anthony, 2019) andLinguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) (Pennebaker Conglomerates, 2015). Thefindings from LIWC showsthat the enforced self-isolation is leading to mental health breakdown. The analysis of the news reports show thatBritain’s priorities are centred on the economy whereas Sri Lankan newspapers focus on educating people aboutthe severity of COVID-19.1. IntroductionThe coronavirus pandemic has been likened to a war situation andmetaphors such as‘battle’,‘fight’,‘combat’,‘attack’,‘defend’,‘beat’etc.,have been used by World leaders to describe the response to thepandemic (Maxwell et al., 2020).Magnus (25th February 2020)notesone such metaphor that gained traction at the start of the pandemic:“President Xi Jinping has vowed to wage a‘people’s war’against theCOVID-19 epidemic.”The treatment of the pandemic as a war is also seenin the following headline by Britain’s Sun newspaper (Clark, March 15,2020) where the Prime Minister is said‘to declare war’and his actionplan is referred to as a‘battle plan’:“Army on standby as Boris declareswar on coronavirus with battle plan to kill the deadly virus”. These usesof war metaphors suggest the scale of the pandemic globally and theeffect that it is having on the population as a whole. On 13th March,2020, the Prime Minister of Britain stated on national TV that“We’regoing to lose many more loved ones”(Binns, 13th March, 2020). Thescale of the spread has brought the issue of mental health well-being tothe forefront. The Guidance from the UK government states“the coro-navirus (COVID19) outbreak is going to have an impact on everyone’sdaily lives, as the government and the NHS take necessary steps tomanage the outbreak, reduce transmission and treat those who needmedical attention”. The Public Health England website advices people tolook after their well-being by‘connecting with others’,‘helping andsupporting others’,‘by talking about worries’,‘looking after one’sphysical well-being’,‘trying to manage difficult feelings’,‘managingmedia and information intake’,‘sticking to a regular routine and sleeppattern’, etc (Gov, 2020). The awareness of the pressure that the lock-down is placing on people’s mental health is increasing and this is seen bythe support for the government campaign by the Duke and Duchess ofCambridge (BBC News, 29th March, 2020), who remarked:“The last fewweeks have been anxious and unsettling for everyone. We have to taketime to support each other andfind ways to look after our mental health.By pulling together and taking simple steps each day, we can all be betterprepared for the times ahead" (Table 5 and 6).As the COVID-19 pandemic has been branded as‘the worst healthcrisis in a generation’(Binns, March 13th, 2020), the problem of people’smental well-being is an important issue to address.Rim�e et al. (1991)state that during traumatic situations such as natural disasters and pan-demics, people process the trauma of the situation by coming togetherand that newspapers mirror this collective script of how the trauma isbeing processed by society. This is confirmed byGortner and Pennebaker(2003, p. 583), who noted that newspapers mirror the“psychologicaldynamics of society”. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to investi-gate the social impact the novel coronavirus is having on two societies byexamining a selected corpus of news reports and personal stories.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information and Comments: This journal is a peer reviewed, open access journal. The full text is available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590291120300310
Keywords: COVID-19 self-isolation mental health
Faculty / Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > English
Depositing User: Manel Herat
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2021 10:13
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 10:18
URI: https://hira.hope.ac.uk/id/eprint/3245

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