Mental support key to ease coronavirus impact

MUSCAT: As the whole world grapples with COVID-19, people are under intense strain and stress. Experts warn that mental illnesses may grow into epidemic proportions due to job loss and economic disruptions. The monotony of staying and working from home is also taking toll on mental health.

“These changes along with the fear of catching the virus and becoming unwell, fears of joblessness and financial impact from the lockdown due to business closure are causing a lot of anxiety and fears,” said Dr Hamed al Sinawi, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.

According to him, the massive social and economic effects from the pandemic in the coming years are going to affect the mental health of the population.

“We should not forget the fact that under the shadow of COVID-19, another epidemic is growing with mental health implications,”Dr Hamed warned.

The lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues make people at the risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and sleeping problems, he said.

The isolation as well as the uncertainty about how long it will last and how the pandemic will play out can fuel anxiety.

“Frontline health workers, who had to leave home and work putting themselves in danger, are more at risk of developing mental health problems,” he said.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization, at the last weekend, jointly said that there has been a “high prevalence” of mental distress in countries across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic, especially among healthcare workers and children.

“The impact of the pandemic on people’s mental health is already extremely concerning,” WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Children being kept out of school, for instance, face uncertainty and anxiety. Along with women, they also face a heightened risk of domestic abuse as people spend lengthy amounts of time cooped up at home.

While pointing out the recent guidelines issued by the United Nations, Dr Hamed stressed the need to include access to psychosocial support and emergency mental care in all aspects of the people’s response to the pandemic.

This is a collective responsibility of governments and civil society, with the support of the whole United Nations System. A failure to take people’s emotional well-being seriously will lead to long-term social and economic costs to society, he said quoting the UN statement.

“These are difficult times for all of us. People around may be facing financial difficulty, donate to people you know or to charities,” Dr Hamed urged.