The State Of Mental Health Amid COVID-19
MENTAL HEALTH AND COVID 19, Master Class With Aderinmola M.D
What is COVID 19?
COVID 19 means Corona Virus 19. It is a new type of Corona Virus. The 19 means it was discovered in 2019. Although Corona Virus has existed before now. Subtypes discovered in the past were SARS Corona virus (Severe acute respiratory Syndrome related Coronavirus) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory related Corona virus). COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 a subtype of the Corona Virus.
Let me demystify some myths: COVID-19 is not a hoax in Nigeria, it is real. There are presently confirmed 8733 cases in Nigeria with sadly 254 mortalities ( source: NCDC twitter page – @NCDCgov). The figures are not exaggerated values, as a matter of fact, Nigeria is Under-reporting due to low testing capacity.
The COVID 19 affects the respiratory tract causing respiratory symptoms.
, COVID 19 is suspected by the presence of:
Difficulty in breathing
And the history of contact with the person who had been tested positive to COVID 19 or history of recent travel to countries affected with the COVID 19.
There are new symptoms like loss or reduced sense of smell, stroke, foot changes. The virus is yet to be fully discovered but the above are the most documented symptoms
However, due to the incidence of community transmission, lack of history of contact with a confirmed or recent journey to affected countries does not rule out COVID 19. Many people with COVID 19 are asymptomatic and many are yet to be tested and confirmed as positive.
So there are a lot of people who might be positive for COVID 19 but are not yet tested.
Precautionary measures have been put in place by WHO to reduce the risk of transmission
2.Use of Alcohol-based Hand sanitizers
3.Practicing social distancing at least 2m away from the nearest person and avoidance of overcrowded places
4. Staying indoor unless indicated
5. Avoiding touching the face with the hands,
6. Coughing into a bent elbow
Recently, the use of face masks (traditionally made face masks) has been included.
The novel Virus has affected every area of our lives, ranging from health implications, social limitations, economic constraints, spiritual restraints, financial challenges, and importantly the state of an individual’s mental health. The impact and severity of mental health vary from individuals to individuals due to other coexisting factors, however, everyone is affected one way or the other.
Those at most Risks of COVID-19 are:
1. Older people
2. Those with other health co-morbidity e.g diabetes, hypertension, respiratory illness
Everyone mental health is challenged by this virus but those with
1. History of psychiatric illness
2. Previous mental struggles
3. Financial difficulties
4. Lack of interpersonal relationship, living alone in a state or another country
5. Lack of social support
6. Victims of domestic violence or abusive relationship locked in with the offender
7. People with pre-existing challenges before the advent of the Virus
8. Health workers
9. Teenagers/ Adolescents, Elderly.
Are most at risk of being paralyzed mentally by the virus
How has the virus affected our mental health?
Although there is no record of the virus affecting the brain or directly affecting the mental state of people yet; however, most people suffer from the psychological consequences of this virus.
How does the Virus affect our mental health?
1. Fear of contracting the virus or a loved love testing positive or losing a loved one to the Virus
2. Hindrance/Interruption of individual plans or goals either in business, career, personal, marriage, academic, financial,
3. Compulsory lockdown: the lockdown is a break from the norm. We are social, ambulatory beings. The lack of interaction with other people, staying indoor most times, working remotely are stressors that can affect our mental health. It is a change from an equilibrium that has been maintained for so long. Adapting to the new reality may be a challenge for a lot of people
4. Unemployment: a lot of people are currently temporarily unemployed due to the closure of businesses that involve gathering of people e.g schools, religious houses, clubs, events, hotels, etc. people who derive income from such businesses directly or indirectly are consequently unemployed. There are other people who have been laid off due to the economic implications of the virus. It is predictable that this category of people will suffer a strain on their mental health due to lack of funds, frustration, depression, etc
5. Remote working. From new researches done, it is implied that working remotely is more stressful than working physically. Virtual meetings are more mentally exhausting than physical meetings. Also, the lack of work time boundaries has made many employers overuse their staff giving little or no room for rest.
6. Limited positive coping strategies. Healthy mechanisms developed by people to handle their mental stressors are now limited. For example visiting the gym, playing sports, taking a walk, physical social groups, work, volunteering, etc are all being limited one way or the other. As a result, people are stuck with negative habits that inadvertently worsen the mental state.
7. Lack of savings. In this part of the world where the majority of people live in abject poverty and can only sub minimally or daily meet their needs with no savings kept for emergencies and uncertainties like this.
8. Work overburden. Due to the laying off of some staff, the workload of the remaining staff has increased. This is a challenge to their mental health
9. The need for movement. A lot of people are forced to ambulate for work purposes, putting themselves at risk of infection. Fear and anxiety can also be a form of mental stress.
Emotions are heightened at this moment and if not managed positively pose a higher risk to the state of health of the individual.
Emotions/ Behaviors to watch out for:
4. Self harm
6. Suicidal ideation, behaviors or attempt
Ways to Improve Mental Health
It is paramount to acknowledge the relationship between our physical health and our mental wellbeing. There is a direct correlation between the body and the mind. Whatever affects the body also affects the mind, and whatever affects our minds also have an impact on our bodies. While we are unable to control some of the events in our lives as they are unforeseeable like this pandemic, we can however improve our mental wellbeing and physical health to enable us to handle such issues effectively.
Some mental health boosters are:
1. Know the facts: knowledge they say is powerful, and the lack of it is destruction. Enlighten yourself with all relevant information about the virus and how it affects you. Be updated about the new trends, be informed about new changes , be ready for unities. Keep in mind that some information may trigger or exacerbate anxiety, therefore, seek information from verified sources only. Verify every new update or information passed before dwelling on them. Attend online seminars/webinars within your field of interest (I commend you for joining this) Researches are ongoing to manage the virus and its various implications. Be well educated!
2. Know that you are not alone. The Virus is a pandemic I.e it has affected most countries in every continent. It has currently affected every state in Nigeria including FCT! You are not alone. You are not the only one affected. Knowing that others can relate to your situation helps. The virus has everyone one way or the other.
3. Implement precautionary measures given. Be thorough in protecting yourself and loved ones as much as you can. Place your life above every other thing. If there is life, there is hope.
4. Boost your immune system by consuming a lot of fruits and vegetables, which are sources of vitamins needed to combat infection. There is no cure to the virus yet, survival is solely on the strength of the person’s immune system. Hydration is also very key, therefore take a lot of water.
5. Adequate rest/sleep. Sleep improves both our physical and mental health. Ensure daily eight hours of sleep. Take intermittent naps during the day. Either you are working remotely or physically, ensure your sleep is not compromised.
6. Exercise: although gyms are locked, exercise can still be done at home. Exercise like taking a walk around the house is beneficial. You can include other routines to keep fit and healthy.
7. Sustain social interactions: Humans are social beings and interactions are therapeutic. Stay connected with loved ones either physically if possible or virtually. Social media is a helpful tool for interactions, maximize it!
8. Communicate your feelings/emotions: repressed feelings/unexpressed feelings are catastrophic. It is advantageous that emotions are expressed. Every individual must have at least one person they can vent, rant, communicate to. No matter how you feel, share with someone. Revealing is the beginning of healing. In the absence of trusted individuals to reveal to, express them non verbally such as writing, drawing how you feel.
9. Continue positive routines/hobbies.
10. Reach out for help if overwhelmed. I’m always available. Please reach out to me. You can also reach out to Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI) (check www.mentallyaware.org)
Mental Disorders to look out for
1. Clinical Depression
2. Anxiety disorder
3. Stress disorder
4. Suicide/ Self Harm
1. Express our feelings (through ways mentioned above).
2. Identify negative thoughts, habits, and influences.
3. Eliminate negative coping strategies: such as alcohol, caffeine, cocaine, tobacco.
4. Replace negative with positive coping strategies e.g writing how you feel, drawing your emotions, keep a journal gardening, fishing, exercise, online volunteering/internships/learning.
5. Join an online support group (I have an e- a support group for people feeling depressed)
We put into cognizance our mental health. Be aware of how we feel.
The policymakers and Government must include mental health into consideration when planning for the future.
Also, let’s know that a lot of changes would be made as well as new opportunities. Let’s be informed and brace up for them.
We must start thinking outside the box as COVID -19 might not be over soon but become the “new normal”. Let adapt and adjust as necessary.
About the Financial implications, we must research new financial opportunities. Think about new needs and problems that might arise and align ourselves accordingly
To cater to everyone’s mental needs, it is beyond the surface level. Please if you need help with emotions to reach out to me personally.
Master Class by : Dr. Aderinmola Oreoluwa – Public (Mental) Health Physician