Coronavirus (File Photo: IANS)
Coronavirus (File Photo: IANS)

Coronavirus lockdown: Don't let home become your jail

By Mpiletso Motumi Time of article published Mar 26, 2020

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Mental health has far-reaching consequences for people, and with the pending national 21-day lockdown many people have been talking about cabin fever and anxiety.

Psychologist Dr Ashraf Kagee said because this kind of crisis had never happened before to South Africans, it was a time of great uncertainty.

“Feelings such as worry, distress and anxiety are not out of the ordinary under these circumstances, I think almost everybody is going to be having some of these feelings at some point and there is nothing wrong with anyone who feels anxious and worried. If watching TV or listening to news about Covid-19 causes people to feel anxious and distressed then doing so should be limited.”

Kagee added that seeking relevant and trusted information from trusted sources was important. 

“Mainly so that you can take practical steps and make plans to protect yourselves and your loved ones.

“The constant streams about news reports can cause anyone to feel worried. It is necessary to get the facts and not fake news.”

He said assisting people in the time of need can benefit both the person receiving support and the helper.

“For example, checking by telephone on neighbours when you buy supplies for yourself, and buying extra food for people who have no means. It is important to honour carers and healthcare workers who are supporting people affected by Covid-19 in the community, and acknowledge the role they play in saving lives.”

Kagee said misinformation and rumours could be extremely destructive. “In terms of getting through the day it is useful to keep busy, structure the day with activities such as school and housework. Exercise, and have quiet times and reading.

“Many people find prayer and meditation quite helpful and many can find benefit from that,” he said.

Kagee added that social support was also beneficial as humans are by nature social beings.

“Stay in touch with family and friends via texts and calls. Togetherness is important. We live in an era of technology and many people find it convenient to use applications and social media to check on each other.

“But there are many people who don’t have access to social media or have internet at home.

“So staying in touch with neighbours at a safe distance, letter writing, keeping a journal, all of these things can be quite helpful under these difficult circumstances.”

Kagee said it was important to also distinguish between people who have a mental health condition, and those who might be experiencing heightened anxiety or concern.

“I think people who have a condition like depression or anxiety have exacerbated symptoms and therefore staying in touch with a mental health professional will be quite important; many will be available for their patients via phone or Skype which is important in making people feel supported at this time.

“For the people who are not under the care of a mental health professional, resources such as Lifeline can be helpful; social and family support can help people feel less vulnerable.”

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