The whole world is grappling with COVID-19 and clearly nothing, in the recent years, has brought all actors together for a common cause like this epidemic. Presently, we all have a reasonable impression of the virus; the prevention and response measures.
Regardless of when we get over COVID-19, it will definitely leave short- and long-lasting scars, physical and emotional.
At Mental Health Uganda, we want to bring to the fore, the emotional (mental health) risks and challenges associated with the virus and propose some simple practical steps.
This outbreak is stressful for everyone thus leads to fear and anxiety. As a result, it has caused strong emotions for children and adults in varied but heavy proportions.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations and how one responds can depend on internal and environmental conditions.
People who may be more strongly affected by this crisis include older people and those living with chronic conditions; people who are helping with the response like doctors and other health care providers, or first responders; people with intellectual or psychosocialdisabilities; people who have been released from quarantine (carrying sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have unfounded fears of contracting the disease from contact with them and their families could be likely victims of stigma anddiscrimination); children and teens; and those who are particularly confused and feel insecure.
As such, people will fear and worry about their own health and the health of loved ones. As a consequence, there will be changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty in concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems; and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
Given the risk magnitude, there is no doubt that quarantine (self or institutional) is also necessary. It will however in most cases have some mental health impacts. They may include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, confusion, anger, stigma anddiscrimination (at individual and family level) and could in some instances be long-lasting.
That said, the mental health implications of isolation do not mean weshouldn’t quarantine. It is however important to put psycho-social support at the center of the quarantines as we follow advice from professionals, especially the Ministry of Health.
People with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities are among the most affected at periods of national and international crisis. The COVID 19 pandemic finds many of them in health facilities under institutional care. Coupled with a history of overcrowding, thispresents grave risks for patients on admission.
There are also homeless Ugandans with mental disabilities on the urban streets, particularly in Kampala. They are faced with the merger of crises where homelessness and disease meet; a disease that dictates social distancing for which they can neither be assured of nor claim. What is clear though is that they are a population at enhanced risk!
In light of the above, Mental Health Uganda recommends the following:
For mental health counselling call Mental Health Uganda on:
0778 035 128 or 0701 748 185.
www.mentalhealthuganda.org | www.kyogereko.co.ug
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