People with mental health issues related to coronavirus need support, report says

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Loneliness caused by isolation and post-traumatic stress disorder among health workers are mental health issues that nations need to address, according to a report from the Global Government Summit on the Effects of Coronavirus.

The study Making Mental Wellbeing a National Priority: Actions to Build Resilience, released on Monday, revealed the mental toll of the pandemic.

Elderly people faced months of isolation, families were barred from attending funerals, while young people missed out on school and university.

The report, compiled in partnership with consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), estimates that poor mental health costs the global economy more than $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

The global economy loses a trillion US dollars each year in lost productivity due to poor mental health. The pandemic has only accelerated this impact

Hamish Clark, PwC Middle East

He called on governments to invest in public health support by 2025 to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, saying authorities had a moral duty to intervene.

“The impact of Covid-19 has taken many forms on mental health around the world,” the report said.

Health workers fell ill with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), elderly people were separated from their children, grandchildren felt lonely and depressed and parents feared losing their jobs while children lost their activities with their friends.

“Governments and policy makers are increasingly recognizing that we need to take serious action to provide solutions and tools to reduce negative impact and promote community well-being.”

Solutions include reducing the use of social media, which is recognized as a source of mental health problems, especially among young people.

The report praises a recent change in attitude towards mental health in the Gulf region.

Regional improvements in mental health care

Although stigma persists, young people were more willing to discuss related issues and seek help.

The UAE’s National Program for Happiness and Wellbeing (NPHW) has been held up by experts as an example of progress.

It included a campaign in April 2020 to provide mental health support to all residents of the United Arab Emirates to help them overcome the psychological effect of the coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia has also stepped up its mental, social and psychological health support to help citizens cope with stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic, including its dedicated telehealth service providing access to therapists.

Similar initiatives have been introduced in Bahrain and elsewhere, as remote services become more accessible as technology improves.

“The global economy loses US$1 trillion each year in lost productivity due to mental health issues. The pandemic has only accelerated this impact,” said Hamish Clark, Chief Wellness Officer at PwC Middle East.

“We highlight key recommendations for governments on how to break the stigma around mental health in the workplace and build resilient societies.”

A recent study by Plumm, a provider of a workplace mental well-being platform, highlighted the link between mental and physical health.

Three main mental health factors have been identified as having an intrinsic link with physical well-being: chronic stress, depression and burnout.

Prolonged chronic stress can manifest as physical symptoms of high blood pressure, clogged arteries, and brain changes that lead to mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and addiction.

“Getting to the root cause of problems and stress is important to ensure you seek the right treatment and solutions before more serious consequences ensue,” said Caileen Lubbe, a research psychologist. who works with Plumm.

“Even taking five minutes a day to take a break from the workplace and focus on mindfulness or take a break to meditate is great for mental and physical health.

“Setting goals can be fantastic for boosting positivity and energy, both mentally and physically.”

Results from the 2021 360° Wellbeing Study conducted by global healthcare provider Cigna revealed a gap in mental health support in the UAE.

The research found that 34% of employees in the UAE said they lacked support, while 39% said they wanted access to mental resilience training.

As health insurance begins to cover more mental health care, gaps remain.

Most insurers have an employee assistance program where employers can pay around $30 (110 Dh) per year for each employee to top up insurance to cover mental health.

Specialized treatment of coronavirus in RAK — in pictures

Physical health linked to mental health

The physical effects of depression include headaches, fatigue, back pain, insomnia, heart disease, and changes in psychomotor activity.

Somatic (or physical) symptoms can significantly affect a person’s longevity and quality of life, so access to effective treatment is essential.

“Poor physical health can have huge repercussions on our mental health, and I commend this report for helping to raise awareness of this, especially after the challenges caused by the pandemic,” said Dr Mohanned Noor Elimam Abdallah, MD family specialist at the Priory. Wellness Center, Abu Dhabi.

“I urge the public to be aware of the signs and symptoms of burnout, chronic stress and depression in particular, all of which can lead to serious physical illness.

“It is extremely common for patients who take long-term medication for chronic health conditions to also suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“Early consultation with a psychiatrist or family member [doctor] is important because it can make a big difference in dealing with these issues early before they turn into serious health issues.

The in-person World Government Summit, meanwhile, was held at Expo 2020 Dubai in March, the week the World Expo ended.

The summit attracted leaders from around the world and important topics ranging from food security to energy supply were discussed.

Updated: April 26, 2022, 03:57

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