Monday, October 25, 2021

Mental health might now prove worse than the pandemic was at its worst

With the summer season already upon us and with that, the warmer temperatures, it was almost inevitable that the country would see a lull in the otherwise stubborn coronavirus figures.

And indeed so it has been. Number in hospitalizations have gone down, new infections have gone down as has the number of deaths.

The biggest headache is that vaccination remains slow. We should use this time to roll out vaccine and get as many of the people as possible fully vaccinated.

This is imperative because from experience, we have not seen the last of covid 19.

And science has proved that vaccine will be the surest way of exiting the pandemic.

That aside, the pandemic is very much alive and capable of striking again. In fact people continue to die, only at lower numbers and also receiving less publicity.

The immediate problem facing the country as it looks ahead in a post pandemic world is mental health.

The pandemic has led to lockdowns that led to a spike in domestic violence.

There is no doubt that people have been scared by covid and efforts to fight it.

And that the future looks grim.

Suicides are likely to significantly go up.

This will prove a more complicated issue for public health that is fatigued, depleted and generally under-resourced.

The biggest threat is that even before the pandemic, Botswana had not made any significant investments on mental health.

The pandemic has made the need all the more urgent.

An unprecedented number of people have now been adversely affected, mainly as a result of lockdown but also following the loss of closed ones to the pandemic.

These people are unable to cope.

They experience all sorts of mental health difficulties.

Following havoc wrought by covid 19 some of them are even scared to face the world without people who were closest to them.

Too many people are suffering from panic attacks.

Too many people are worried for their future. Confidence is at its lowest. Morale is also low.

Too many people are feeling helplessness.

A combination of these leads to mental problems for many people.

There are many of our people with insomnia and also with some serious and growing psychological symptoms.

It is a combination of factors that could result not only in mental breakdown but also in suicides.

All these should not come as a surprise.
It was going to happen at some other time – covid or no covid.

What the pandemic did has been to fast-track mental health issues.

We are all aware of the neglect that mental health has suffered over the years.

The neglect was excessive and unsustainable especially given the pressures of modern lifestyles.

It was only a matter of time before it caught up with the nation.

Now the country has to invest heavily and over a short time.

There is not much time to catch up.

Early signs from the covid rampage are that this neglect must end.

The stigma attached to mental ill health continues to hang over attempts to get people affected to come out and talk openly about it.

So attending to those affected is not just medical. It is multi-faceted including dealing with the stigma.

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