Covid-19 pushes people’s mental state to breaking point

Tuesday, May 25th, 2021 00:00 |
Covid-19 pushes people’s mental state to breaking point.

As we wrap up the month of May, which is Mental Health Awareness month, experts warn that the negative mental health effects of the pandemic are likely to last much longer than its physical health impacts.

Jasmine Wambui

The third wave of Covid-19 hit many Kenyas directly and indirectly compared to the first time the pandemic first hit the nation last year.

The various waves experienced elsewhere in the world also come with new hard to detect symptoms and variants.

But even as the global population sighed with relief after the vaccination rollout took root globally, a silent yet more dangerous effect slowly is creeping.

Many families are left grappling with the effects of the virus long after a family member dies or recovers, a situation equated to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). 

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown.

So, it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Patients and their family members, sometimes have had to deal with near death experiences while undergoing treatment for the virus.

Not to forget the loss and grief after a loved one dies. Added to the fear of contracting the virus are the significant changes to our daily lives.

Many people have lost their jobs and sources of income. Others have had to downgrade and leave what seemed like an ideal and comfortable life, so that they can survive this global pandemic.

Another group of people have had to move or move a part of their families upcountry to manage costs and expenses better. All this and more are putting pressure to our mental health.

According to counselling psychologist Marion Gichuru, the virus has instilled in many the fear of the unknown. 

“Millions of people globally have died from the virus and people generally fear death and being alone.

This is a lonely disease as you have to recover on your own without having visitors or family members around.

Some people even avoid calling or checking up on the patients because of stigma that is being experienced in the society,” she says.

A new survey that assessed the mental health impact of Covid-19 across the globe showed high rates of trauma and clinical mood disorders related to the pandemic.

The survey, by Washington DC based Sapien Labs, showed that 57 per cent of respondents experienced some Covid-19-related adversity or trauma.

Roughly one quarter showed clinical signs of or were at risk for a mood disorder, and only 40 per cent described themselves as “succeeding or thriving.” A few have also contemplated suicide.

Family psychologist and lecturer, Dr Susan Gitau says that men who believe that they cannot speak out or seek help publicly, are suffering in silence during this global pandemic as problems that they already had have somehow escalated and some of their coping mechanisms have been cut off due to curfews and restrictions. 

A crisis moment

“Unlike women who mostly use right side of the brain, which is specialised for simultaneous processing; that is, it operates in a more holistic, relational way, men use their left side of the brain where the logical thinking processes are found.

It seems that the mode of operation of the brain’s left hemisphere is linear; it processes information sequentially, one bit after another, in an ordered way.

They want to reason out an issue to come up with a clear solution. But with Covid-19, there is no time for that as it is a crisis moment where majority of the people are traumatised and navigating loss and grief,” she says. 

This problem is easily transferred to their spouses who later project it to the children hence damaging their emotions and sometimes causing all sorts of abuse. 

It has not been all gloom and doom though. There are those who have come out victorious regardless.

This is because they have changed course, re-strategised and learnt how to deal with uncertainties in life, while at the same time receiving support from friends and family. 

According to *Tom Mulwa who was rendered redundant in May 2020, what started as a time of pain and turmoil in his life turned into a life he feels has given him much time and joy with his family.

“I was the breadwinner of the family and here I was living in a rental house in Nairobi yet I had a piece of land in the outskirts of the city.

I decided to use some of the money I got in my redundancy package to build a simple house and start a business selling general home supplies near that land.

Within a few months, the house was complete; my family moved in and by that time, my business was doing well and is now able to support my family.

I believe my business will give me more than I ever earned while I was employed,” he says.

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