April Green/Publisher

With the coronavirus outbreak, our lives have turned upside down unexpectedly. The impact of this pandemic runs deep and can cause added mental stress to everyone who is impacted. Recognizing the need to help people cope mentally, the World Health Organization, WHO, Mental Health Department developed mental health considerations to be mindful of as a support for mental and psychological well-being during the COVID-19 outbreak. WHO provided tips for the general population, health care workers caretakers of children or older adults, and those in isolation.

Recommendations for General Population

WHO recognizes that this pandemic has affected many people across the globe from different countries and different geographical locations. “Be empathetic to those who got affected, in and from any country, those with the disease have not done anything wrong” the guide states. The guide also says. “Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause 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”.

Recommendations for Health Care Workers

For health care workers, WHO said, “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”. The guide states that health care workers may be experiencing avoidance by their families and community, WHO suggests, “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”.

Recommendations for Caring for Children

When caring for children, WHO said “Help children find positive ways to express disturbing feelings such as fear and sadness. Every child has his/her own way to express emotions”. The guide recommends allowing children to express themselves in creative ways such as through play and drawing. WHO also recommends the following, “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. Further, ensure that during periods of separation, regular contact with parents and caregivers is maintained, such as twice-daily scheduled phone or video calls or other age-appropriate communication (e.g., social media depending on the age of the child)”.

Recommendations for Caring for Older Adults

When caring for older adults, WHO recognizes that they may become anxious, angry, stressed, agitated, and withdrawn with this being even more so in those with cognitive decline/dementia. WHO advises that you do the following. “Provide practical and emotional support through informal networks (families) and health professionals.”  WHO also said, “Share simple facts about what is going on and give clear information about how to reduce risk of infection in words older people with/without cognitive impairment can understand. Repeat the information whenever necessary. Instructions need to be communicated in a clear, concise, respectful and patient way, and it may be helpful for information to be displayed in writing or pictures. Engage their family and other support networks in providing information and helping them practice prevention measures (e.g. handwashing etc.)”.

For People in Isolation

For people in isolation, mental health considerations recommended by WHO include keeping to your daily routine. If unable to be around others stay connected and engaged through your social networks. Email, texts, social media, and video conferencing are ways to stay connected. WHO also recommends exercising regularly and engaging in activities that you enjoy.

April Green

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