Preserving mental health during coronavirus outbreak

Web Desk
March 16, 2020

Coronavirus has spread to more than 140 countries around the world has killed more than 5,000 people and affected over 170,000.

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The novel coronavirus has spread to more than 140 countries around the world and has killed more than 5,000 people and affected over 170,000.

So far, pharmacies around the world are rushing to make vaccines that can cure the virus but no one has reported success yet.

In these times of distress, the World Health Organisation issued a handout on how people can protect their mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, urging people to be empathetic and help everyone in need.

General advice

1. COVID-19 has and is likely to affect people from many countries, in many geographical locations. Don’t attach it to any ethnicity or nationality. Be empathetic to those who got affected, in and from any country, those with the disease have not done anything wrong.

2. Don’t - refer to people with the disease as “COVID-19 cases”, “victims” “COVID-19 families” or the “diseased”. They are “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID-19”.

3. Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that causes you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day once or twice.

4. Protect yourself and be supportive of others. Assisting others in their time of need can benefit the person receiving support as well as the helper.

For medical staff

1. For health workers, feeling stressed is an experience that you and many of your health worker colleagues are likely going through; in fact, it is quite normal to be feeling this way in the current situation. Stress and the feelings associated with it are by no means a reflection that you cannot do your job or that you are weak. Managing your stress and psychosocial wellbeing during this time is as important as managing your physical health.

2. Take care of your basic needs and employ helpful coping strategies- ensure rest and respite during work or between shifts, eat sufficient and healthy food, engage in physical activity, and stay in contact with family and friends. Avoid using unhelpful coping strategies such as tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.

3. Some workers may, unfortunately, experience avoidance by their family or community due to stigma or fear. This can make an already challenging situation far more difficult. If possible, staying connected with your loved ones including through digital methods is one way to maintain contact. Turn to your colleagues, your manager or other trusted persons for social support- your colleagues may be having similar experiences to you.

4. If you are a team leader or manager in a health facility, facilitate access to, and ensure staff is aware of where they can access mental health and psychosocial support services. Managers and team leads are also facing similar stressors as their staff, and potentially additional pressure in the level of responsibility of their role. It is important that the above provisions and strategies are in place for both workers and managers, and that managers are able to role-model self-care strategies to mitigate stress.

The people taking care of children

1. Help children find positive ways to express disturbing feelings such as fear and sadness. Every child has his/her own way to express emotions. Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing, and drawing can facilitate this process. Children feel relieved if they can express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.

2. Keep children close to their parents and family, if considered safe for the child, and avoid separating children and their caregivers as much as possible. If a child needs to be separated from his/her primary caregiver, ensure that appropriate alternative care is and that a social worker, or equivalent, will regularly follow up on the child.

3. Maintain familiar routines in daily life as much as possible, especially if children are confined to home. Provide engaging age-appropriate activities for children. As much as possible, encourage children to continue to play and socialize with others, even if only within the family when advised to restrict social contract.

4. During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents Discuss the COVID-19 with your Children in honest and age-appropriate information.

For people in isolation

1. Stay connected and maintain your social networks. Even in situations of isolation, try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines. If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via e-mail, social media, video conference, and telephone.

2. During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food. Keep things in perspective. Public health agencies and experts in all countries are working on the outbreak to ensure the availability of the best care to those affected.

3. A near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel anxious or distressed. Seek information updates and practical guidance at specific times during the day from health professionals and WHO websites and avoid listening to or following rumors that make you feel uncomfortable.

Read complete handout here.



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