Venting will not help you cope better with lockdown, but laughter will
Public rants have been a feature of lockdown life, especially in Victoria, but they do not help people cope with pandemic restrictions or boost mental health.
"Venting" – several spectacular examples of which have trended during Australia's pandemic – is one of several coping strategies that have been found to have a negative influence on mental health, according to a Monash University study.
Rather than helping, a good rant contributed to worse mental health.
"Normally it's good to have a vent but in our study we found it was associated with higher stress levels," said associate professor Caroline Gurvich, deputy director of the Monash Alfred Psychiatry research centre.
Professor Gurvich, an author of the paper about to be published by The International Journal of Social Psychiatry, said negative thinking generally wasn't helpful.
"The survey found if you are thinking negative thoughts such as 'this is terrible, it's never going to end, things are never going to be the same', it has a negative impact on mental health," she said.
Self-blame for job loss or other pandemic-related adversity was also "ineffective" as a coping strategy, but accepting the situation and trying to reframe your thinking to focus on what you could still do boosted mental health.
The national survey found women's mental health had been hit harder than men's during COVID-19.
More than one-third (35 per cent) of females and 19 per cent of males reported severe levels of depression and 27 per cent of females and 10 per cent of males reported moderate to severe stress levels.
Twenty-one per cent of females and nine per cent of males reported moderate to severe levels of anxiety.
Almost half of respondents were experiencing at least one symptom of PTSD and 17 per cent of females and 14 per cent of males had suicidal thoughts.
Professor Gurvich said three coping strategies that boosted mental health were "positive reframing", acceptance and humour.
"If you can rephrase it, 'I can still see my family [those you live with] or work from home', trying to look at the positives and the way you're thinking is something we can recommend," she said.
She said "laughter – finding something to have a good giggle at", even if it was a light-hearted meme sending up the situation, was also found to be useful.
Professor Gurvich said not everyone was struggling during isolation, and some people are "doing quite well". "There is a range of mental health responses, some are finding it very difficult for many reasons.
"Loneliness and uncertainty that we don't know what the future holds are drivers," she said.
The Covid 19 and Mental Health survey has been tracking the mental health of 1500 Australians since April 3, and will report every two months for the next two years to include the recovery.
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