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Q&A with Dr. Lyndall Schumann, Clinical Psychologist, Union Health

Dr. Lyndall Schumann is a registered clinical psychologist who supports children, adolescents, and adults by providing assessment, diagnosis and treatment services at Union Health Clinic as well as on the Akira by TELUS Health app. Dr. Schumann employs client-centred and evidence-based methods, and typically works within Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and emotion-focused frameworks.


Q:  How has your practice changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?

A: My practice went from primarily in person treatment sessions to exclusively virtual sessions in one day. Many of my in-person patients have put their treatment on hold while many new patients have started up virtual sessions with me through Akira. As a result I'm fielding a lot of different needs from a variety of different people, mostly working from home, who had not previously engaged in psychotherapy. Some are only now finding time to work with a psychologist. Others are finding that the stress of the global COVID situation has made coping with other underlying issues of depression, anxiety, OCD, etc. more difficult and are seeking support. 

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Q: How can we best protect our mental health during these challenging times?

A: Our social support networks are incredibly important to cope with today’s stresses — and all mental health challenges — and yet we are required to distance ourselves from others. My recommendations are usually very individualized to the specific challenges my patients are facing. Some common tips include maintaining social contact with others virtually, perhaps by having chats or get-togethers with friends or family via videoconference or phone. Sometimes this is needed daily. Exercise, sleep, and eating are also aspects of our health that we cannot neglect without negative impacts on our mental health. Taking action to improve your own wellbeing and doing for others is helpful to maintain a sense of agency in uncertain times. Acceptance of what we cannot control in this situation is also critical. Small actions in the right direction can have ripple effects that lift mood and strengthen our ability to cope. 


Q: This situation poses different challenges for everyone. What is your #1 tip for people who are living alone, juggling work and childcare at home, or have lost their jobs?

A: If you are living alone, chat daily with a friend or family. If you can, do this via video, since communication is richer when we can see each other's non-verbal cues: smiles, mannerisms, movements. 

If you are juggling work and childcare at home, lower your expectations for yourself and let anything nonessential fall away. You have been given an impossible task of working a job and simultaneously taking care of children. Try to get your kids moving their bodies and join in. 

If you have lost your job, accept that you are not in control of the situation and find something that you can put your effort into that is useful; maybe something you've been meaning to do but have never had the time to do. Remind yourself that this is temporary and that you are in the company of many of us who are in similar situations. 


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Q: What is one challenge you've faced during this pandemic? 

A: I’ve got two kids aged 1 and 4 with me at home and a spouse who is also working. After a few arguments we have needed to tighten up our communication around logistics of trading off child watching but also when we are feeling frustrated or not appreciated. Everyone's stress level is heightened and we need to communicate our emotions and needs clearly. It's important to ask for what you need or want but also to negotiate without either party getting defensive. Add to this that my older kid misses school, routine and his friends and has lots of big feelings that can erupt into challenging behaviour.


Q: What is one silver lining you've experienced during this pandemic?

A: There’s a little less pollution in the atmosphere.  Also I enjoy the thought that the natural world is still waking up in spring time just like it always has, but maybe has a bit more space and quiet to do so now. 


Click here to learn more about mental health support services at Medisys.