VPS Healthcare, one of the UAE’s leading mental health speciality centres has joined forces with Cadabam’s mental health hospital in India to provide an online mental health support system for those in the UAE.
Due to the change in lifestyle and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people suffering from stress, anxiety, depression, panic and more is undoubtedly going to increase. While staying at home it can be difficult to know where to turn for advice on these kinds of problems. So leading mental health speciality centre VPS Healthcare has teamed up with Cadabam’s hospital to provide an online support service for those struggling with mental health issues.
The platform will offer 24/7 advice to patients from a team of psychologists who will meet with patients through a series of video conferences. They will be on hand to offer advice and support to those struggling with the current situation and any other issues related to mental health.
One of these doctors is Dr Reena Thomas, Clinical Psychologist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai, a unit of VPS Healthcare. Here we discuss with her some of the potential psychological issues she sees arising from the coronavirus situation and how we can put measures in place to avoid or reduce some of these.
What are the biggest issues we can expect to face when self-isolating for a long period of time?
It can lead to a wide variety of problems from mild to severe. This can include anxiety, depression or even the worsening of physical or mental health issues. Most reviewed studies reported psychological effects including post-traumatic symptoms, confusion, and anger. Some of the triggers for these conditions can include a long duration of self-isolation, fears of you or and your loved ones getting infected especially those with elderly or ill parents and young children. Frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies or facilities as they are used to, balancing work from home and regular responsibilities at home, added pressures of engaging children and their online learning and contradictory information.
Are there any techniques you can suggest to keep the mind busy when not being able to leave the house?
Self-reflection practices, planning and structuring your daily life, connecting with your loved ones, catching up with the activities you are missing. If you do this and start to balance things, you will start to enjoy this type of life and wish you had more of it!
What advice would you give to those who are finding frictions between loved ones when spending so much time together?
Balance your personal space and family time. Anticipate and acknowledge your emotional reactions during this pandemic. Take time outs when you see something happening, then help to reframe the problem with a healthy perspective and communicate effectively to your partner. Use this time to learn to reflect on the importance of having family connections and be willing to let go of our destructive habits.
How do we keep our children positive when we may not necessarily be positive ourselves?
Do let them express their concerns, worries about the current situation, and address it with them honestly. Restrict the discussions about the virus between adults. Help the kids to engage in a routine and be more constructive. They can help in daily chores, do some colouring, learn a musical instrument, watch movies etc. Help them to engage in playing indoor sports and using board games.
What can we do for time outs?
painting/ colouring, arranging the room, playing with pets, gardening, indoor games, talking to friends not connected for so long, catching up with books and movies, having gratitude journal, karaoke, dancing, aerobics, yoga, breathing exercises etc…
Would you recommend meditation to calm the mind when at home all the time?
Yes, people can access mindfulness-based meditation apps available – Insight Timer, Calm app etc. This will help them to stay calm and retain their focus.
What advice would you give to those who are anxious about themselves or others catching the disease?
Follow instructions given by the ministry and doctors. Stay at home, wash your hands, stay hydrated, eat and sleep adequately, do moderate exercise, accept the reality and stop stressing about it. Also, develop your spiritual practices.
What about stress-reducing techniques for those who are stressed about the virus, finances etc.?
Listen only to reliable sources for information about and limit your exposure to information.
Know your thoughts, feelings and reactions to the current situation and check whether it’s helpful for you. Learn to change your thoughts into helpful ones which help to adapt through the situation. Trust on your ability to cope and keep optimistic so together, we come out of this pandemic.
Learn to meditate or try relaxation techniques, there are plenty available online. Engage in productive activities and refresh your hidden talents that may have been put to the side because of your busy life. Follow a structured schedule as it minimizes the cluttered overwhelming state of mind.
Practice distraction techniques like having good moments with family members, brisk walking and connecting with family and friends using social networking sites. Sharing reduces the pain and increases happiness, and that’s been our survival function forever.
Are there any other issues you have seen so far in this situation arising related to mental health that you would like to make readers aware of?
People worry about the future with a predicted recession, job loss, the destructive nature of this pandemic and the health and safety of their loved ones living in different parts of the world. I would suggest they develop a meaningful purpose of life-based on NOW, as that’s the only aspect of being in control. It gives some sense of controllability over the situation.
Where can people go if they need advice?
contact mental health professionals. various helplines are there. Cadabams and VPS group has launched a joint venture of an online program which is available to access at www.vpshealth.com/mindtalk/
The services can be availed by reaching out to toll-free number 8005546 to schedule an appointment.
The psychologists can also be reached through the official website of VPS Healthcare (www.vpshealth.com). The website has options for people to undergo a pre-evaluation test by answering a questionnaire. People who undergo the pre-evaluation test can book an appointment with the psychologists for online consultation.