COVID-19 And Mental Health

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The Coronavirus pandemic which started like a joke in the small province of Wuhan in China has held the world spellbound. The world never envisages the enormity of its effects and the devastating turn of events.

Essentially, our ways of life have been fundamentally altered as reflected in new modes of salutation, social interaction as well as stricter approach to hygiene, health and safety.
As we daily witness a rise in infections and death rates occasioned by the pandemic, fear of the unknown grips the hearts of people as no one is certain of who the next victim might possibly be.
This trend has significantly affected the psychic of the people with far-reaching emotional and mental consequences. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) “during this time of lockdown, the world has witnessed a huge increase in cases of domestic violence with women and children being mostly affected”.

In Nigeria, the Advocates for Children and Vulnerable Network first quarter (January to February 2020) report shows that data on child abuse and cases of domestic violence or intimate partner is really on the high.

Sadly, at this period, women and children experiencing domestic violence are at increased risk as most sources of care are almost inaccessible. Usually, during pandemics, there is always a strain on medical infrastructure as the focus is always on treating and preventing the spread of the pandemic.
Remarkably, the COVID-19 presents a unique challenge to the health system of many people, especially in low and middle-income countries, such that accessing health services and help by victims of domestic violence is difficult.

In Nigeria, for instance, people that are mostly affected by the lockdown are medium and daily income earners, especially informal sector’s operatives who survive on daily earnings.

Consequently, there is an increase in the rate of domestic violence in homes as couples with fragile relationship are hooked up together at home with nerves becoming frail and flail.
Coping with the reality that food supply and cash flow may not always be available can also be daunting and nerve-wrecking, especially for families with vulnerable dependants such as children and the elderly.

More so, the COVID-19 crisis also exacerbated the state of insecurity as unscrupulous elements use the lockdown as an avenue to rob and attack hapless compatriots. This, of course, can be quite unsettling, depriving people of sleep and aggravating mental health.

Thus, mental health related complications are now on the increase as a result of inability to properly manage COVID-19 -induced stress. This mostly results in depression, a medical condition that disrupts a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning. Depression results in a diminished capacity for coping with the ordinary demands of life.

It is more than just a feeling of being sad or moody for a few days. Symptoms of depression include feeling sad or empty, loss of interest in favourite activities, over eating, or not wanting to eat at all, not being able to sleep or sleeping too much, fatigue, feeling of hopelessness and such like.

At a time like this, it is important that people with mental health-related issues seek professional help on how to manage the emotional, psychological and physical strain posed by current happenings in the society. Living in self-denial would be counter-productive, especially for those with known symptoms of depression. Therefore, adapting coping mechanism that will guarantee mental health stability during and after COVID-19 becomes expedient.

Interestingly, as the world grapples with the sordid COVID-19 reality, people are coming up with innovative and transformational approaches to life by finding fresh ways of coping and adapting.

In this respect, the social media has been quite helpful and resourceful by offering windows for socialization/ interaction, enterprise, entertainment, religion, education and more. This has positively impacted on the mental health status of many people. Importantly, a good frame of mind is quite essential in order to win the fight against COVID-19-driven depression. Good enough, the social media seems to be offering this all -important escape route for some.
––Temilade Aruya, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Lagos