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Coping with uncertainty, stress, fear, and worry.
17 June, 2020
One of the biggest challenges during this COVID-19 time is the degree of uncertainty; uncertainty about health issues and about social and economic conditions. No one knows in which direction things are going. How are people going to be impacted, directly or indirectly? What will happen next and how bad might things get? It's a terrifying time for everyone, and many are living with stress, fear, and worry.
In Africa, the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of the people has not been documented. However, data from other countries such as China shows that 96.2% of COVID-19 inpatients experienced post-traumatic stress symptoms; 45% of adults have reported that they are experiencing anxiety and stress in the US; and about 33% of people experienced high levels of anxiety in the UK. The impact on mental health is likely to be huge in Africa, and the response is likely to be weak, if governments don't take strong measures quickly. Already, mental health services are lacking and underused; and psycho-social services are not typical and are not well developed in the continent. The SDGC/A calls on African governments to incorporate both mental health and psycho-social support into the pandemic response.
- Develop a comprehensive plan for mental health and psycho-social support as part of COVID-19 response, including the activities to be implemented (community to national), the channel through which the activities should be developed, the people and institutions to be involved, and the tools to be used.
- Mobilize mental health professionals and association of psychologists to accompany the government’s technical and operational guidance.
- Accelerate the implementation of mental health education and communication through social media platforms, radio and televisions; make available tools on individual stress management strategies.
- Train health staff and community health workers on mental health in the pandemic situation; and make available guidelines for mental health to all providing services.
- Set a national mechanism for effective communication on misinformation and fear-related behaviors.
- Develop virtual mental health and psycho-social support services to scale up the services and limit the exposure of patients and clients to COVID-19 at health facilities.
- Establish accessible 24h hotlines to provide support to emotionally distressed people.
- Build upon local resources, including self-help methods, faith-based organizations, and other traditional structures to satisfy people's psycho-social needs.
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