The World Mental Health Day that was celebrated on Saturday had special significance this year, with the world passing through unprecedented health and economic crisis due to COVID-19
Even before the pandemic around 450 million people worldwide have been living with some form of mental disorder, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
With people confined to homes, psychiatrists and therapists have been attending to patients online on the steps needed to ensure personal wellbeing and on how to help those with mental illnesses and in around them.
According to Dr Hassan Mirza, an expert in Behaviour Medicine at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital (SQUH), “The behaviour changes that cannot be ignored are mood changes, aggression towards others, weight gain/loss, social isolation, answering difficulties self-harming behaviour, changes in school performance. If left untreated it can affect children’s performance both in school and within the community.”
He says anxiety, behavioural, attention, depression and sleep and eating are often not identified or reported in time for the person or those affected to get treatment in time.
According to WHO, depression is one of the leading causes of disability. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely — as much as two decades early — due to preventable physical conditions.
“Even with a job in hand, extended ‘stayhome’ can lead to frustration and over-thinking that can bring unwanted thoughts. Spending 24/7 with the same group of people can lead to problems because it is not always possible to be diplomatic’’, says a senior executive in the finance sector.
According to experts, it is also important to take a break from on-screen activities while working from home.
While video games can be a way to relax, it can be tempting to spend much more time on them than usual when at home for long periods. Be sure to keep the right balance with off-line activities in your daily routine. Use social media accounts to promote positive and hopeful stories. Correct misinformation wherever you see it.
Parents should help children find positive ways to express feelings such as fear and sadness, help children stay in contact with friends and family members through telephone and online channels. They should make sure that your children have time away from screens everyday and spend time doing off-line activities together. Creative activities such as drawing, writing, baking and singing should be encouraged.
Keep in regular contact with loved ones, for example by telephone, e-mail, social media or video conference, keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible for eating, sleeping, and activities you enjoy, learn simple daily physical exercises to do at home when in quarantine so you can maintain mobility.
“My request here to everyone is to look inward, exercise the power you have and be the best person you can be. Offer support to oneself and others, work hard and be virtuous. We need to put our differences aside and help the most vulnerable amongst us. Maybe the good we do will have a ripple effect and will spread happiness and positive change. As a mental health practitioner, this is the support I ask from our community members today”, advises Massrat Sheikh, Muscat-based educational psychologist.
As Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said: “As a community, in regards to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling, we are all one whole body, when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches because of sleeplessness and fever”. We feel the pain of everyone, we stand together in this, and we are one body.”