Why Mental Health Concerns Increased During the Pandemic

Why Mental Health Concerns Increased During the Pandemic 24 Aug, 2022

Learn how the UAE government has taken proactive measures toward helping residents cope, with their mental health during the pandemic. Click here to know more

Mental Health and COVID-19

In the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on our lives. As we start to regain control and embrace some form of normalcy, another pandemic has surfaced – the mental health pandemic. The fear and uncertainty attached to COVID-19 have been catalysts to the rise of mental health concerns. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a 25% increase in instances of anxiety and depression globally during the pandemic.

The UAE has been no exception to these circumstances; public mental health significantly deteriorated during initial lockdowns. However, the UAE government has taken proactive measures towards helping residents cope, these are explained ahead.

Quick Read Section

  • Mental health issues have steadily been on the rise especially during the pandemic
  • Stress, fear, and uncertainty linked to lockdowns and quarantine have increased cases of anxiety and depression
  • Mental health concerns have physical health implications that directly affect diet and sleep
  • The UAE government has introduced measures to help residents cope better:
  • Hayat: Initiative for government employees to reach out for consultation
  • 800 HOPE: Distress helpline (8004673) for those directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19
  • Helpline by the Ministry of Health and Prevention: counselling for COVID-19 related anxiety and concerns - 04-5192519 (consultations@mohap.gov.ae)
  • The National Campaign for Mental Support
  • Self-care tips: log off social media, reduce news consumption, eat and rest well, find time in the day to do something you like

Factors affecting your mental health during the pandemic

COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020. This was followed by a wave of fear and panic that dominated our lives. As strict lockdowns were enforced in the UAE and across the world, uncertainty became the running theme of the times.

The lockdown and movement restrictions had a significant social and economic impact on our lives. Many people lost their jobs and feelings of hopelessness, confusion and loneliness took over. Being confined to your house with no clarity about the future is a daunting experience. Similarly, being quarantined after testing positive or as precaution further increases levels of distress. Studies have shown that escalated feelings of helplessness and the fear of passing infection/getting infected led to the increase in symptoms of anxiety. The unpredictable nature of the disease - sometimes leading to hospitalisation, and limited information on its cure adds on to public distress.

The constant exposure to high stress has an impact on your physical health as well. Some people reported loss of weight and appetite during lockdowns while others reported the opposite, as they were stress-eating throughout the pandemic. Similar effect was reported in people’s sleeping patterns, some people struggled with quality sleep while others slept more than usual. These changes affect the overall physical health of the individual and require special attention.

The experience of the pandemic has started a conversation about mental health that was highly stigmatised earlier. As more people talk about their feelings, others join the dialogue since there is a collective feeling of being able to relate to the distress and anxiety we all experienced. As we transition to a post-COVID world, there is a sense of relief. However, we are still witnessing a spike in the . The public expression of our stress and anxiety has led to action at the institutional level.

Distress management by the UAE government

The UAE government introduced the following measures during the pandemic in response to the needs of residents:

If you or anyone you know are experiencing symptoms of distress, please reach out to qualified professionals around you or make use of the above resources. These extraordinary circumstances have taken a toll on every person. It is recommended to adopt healthy coping strategies in order to deal with such levels of stress – take care of your body, limit your consumption of the news, find time in your day to unwind and do something you enjoy, and talk about your feelings with loved ones.

Wear a mask and stay safe!

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