Electronic contact with family can stem depression: Expert - GulfToday

Electronic contact with family can stem depression: Expert


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

A Psychology lecturer in Dubai shared her views on suicide and how even individuals trapped with mental health concerns must act on these brought about by challenges such as the five-month Novel Coronavirus (COVID19).

Gulf Today sought University of Birmingham-Dubai Psychology Foundation Programme deputy director Olivia Goncalves recently, even as on Thursday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on all member-states to raise the bar on “more mental health services to the community, and make sure mental health is included in universal health coverage,” so as to appropriately resolve the consequent psychological-social-emotional-spiritual malaise due to the COVID19.

Guterres, former Portugal prime minister (1995-2002), mentioned this in his “Policy Brief on COVID19 and Mental Health” released last Thursday.

“The COVID-19 virus is not only attacking our physical health; it is also increasing psychological suffering. Grief at the loss of loved ones, shock at the loss of jobs, isolation and restrictions on movement, difficult family dynamics, uncertainty and fear for the future...After decades of neglect and underinvestment in mental health services, the COVID-19 pandemic is now hitting families and communities with additional mental stress,” he stated.

Looking forward to the end of COVID-19, the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2005-2010), encouraged all to join hands and specifically “stand by” everyone grossly affected such as the frontliners: “I urge governments, civil society, health authorities and others to come together urgently to address the mental dimension of the pandemic.”

Over in Dubai and from the academe, Goncalves said: “There has been an uptick on the number of suicides and the rates of depression globally and this is understandable from a historic perspective for three reasons.

“The three reasons are fear and uncertainty of the future, financial security, and social distancing or the downgrading of interaction.”

With these hovering and sinking into everyone’s humane-ness, seeps in “depression, despair and hopelessness.”

“It is important that people recognise these situations as a possibility in their own life and even take action before they acknowledge that they are feeling depressed,” said Goncalves.

For her, the function of the Internet is exponentially critical: “To attempt to prevent or deal with feelings of loneliness, depression and despair, people should have frequent electronic contact with friends and family.”

Goncalves believes that following one’s daily work/weekend-related calendar is beneficial, too.

In relation to this, author/speaker Brian Pennie in his “The 3 Words You Shouldn’t Say Right Now” published in the “Medium Daily Digest” wrote: “To feel good as you can under the circumstances, try to make your days look as they did before the quarantine.”

He cited as an example going through the same work week morning pattern while “(having a ritual that helps you transition into your personal time” with the new norm on after-office hours.

Goncalves who was interviewed for the May 15 “International Day of Families also stressed: “It is important to understand that there have been crises throughout human history.”

Saying these were proved to be psychological-emotional-physical-spiritual battlegrounds, she pointed out that “those who both sought from and provided support to family members and friends not only survived but came out of the (crises) stronger, more successful, and better equipped with the future.”

Goncalves’s last tip: “Do reach out.”

A warning from The Lancet Commission On Global Mental Health And Sustainable Development has also clearly highlighted that many people who previously coped well, are now less able to cope because of the multiple stressors generated by the pandemic.

In Canada, one report indicated that 20 per cent of the population aged 15-49 have increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic.

At the same time, misinformation about the virus and prevention measures, coupled with deep uncertainty about the future, are additional major sources of distress.

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