SINGAPORE - At least two charities have started offering online counselling services for free to help those who are anxious and fearful about the Covid-19 outbreak, which shows no signs of abating more than a month after it erupted in Singapore.
From Monday (Feb 24), Fei Yue Community Services extended its online counselling portal for this purpose, while Silver Ribbon (Singapore) started providing online emotional support from last Wednesday (Feb 19).
Fei Yue's is conducted via online chat messaging, while Silver Ribbon's is done via a video call.
Meanwhile, a group of psychologists are providing their services pro bono or at reduced rates for those distressed by the outbreak, after the Singapore Psychological Society rallied its members.
The society's president, Dr Cherie Chan, said: "Now that the nation is facing this issue, we felt we should stand together as a community and do what we can to provide psychological support and defence."
One of those providing their services pro bono is Mr Andy Sim of Hanns Counselling, who is a counsellor and psychotherapist, who wanted to do his part to help the community during this difficult period.
Silver Ribbon, which provides free counselling for those struggling with mental health woes, started its online counselling initiative after getting queries from the public and some companies whose staff had been in contact with a Covid-19 patient or felt stressed by the outbreak.
Ms Porsche Poh, the organisation's executive director, said: "Every day you get news of the number of people infected and number of deaths. And you are being constantly reminded to wash your hands. So some people have become highly anxious about catching the virus."
Since its online counselling service was launched, they have counselled a 19-year-old student who had a fever and feared he was going to die even though he was not diagnosed with Covid-19 and a 35-year-old who washes her hands every 30 minutes as she is so afraid of being infected.
A spokesman for Fei Yue Community Services said that online counselling is a good medium now, as some people are afraid to leave their house for fear of catching the virus or they are quarantined.
She said: "It is a convenient and anonymous platform that would enable these people a safe space to share their concerns and fears."
Ms Annelise Lai, clinical psychologist at Resilienz Clinic, said: "During this stressful period, it is not a surprise that people can become more tense, irritable and edgy than usual. Furthermore, continuous changes in protocol and routine, such as working from home, is going to increase one's stress level."
Counsellors and psychologists say the sense of fear and uncertainty over a prolonged period due to the outbreak adds to the strain already felt by those facing other woes, from work stress to family problems.
The economic malaise due to the coronavirus has also precipitated fears of job losses or pay cuts due to shorter working hours. Hence counsellors expect more people to seek financial and other forms of help.
People can register for online counselling at Fei Yue Community Services, or contact Silver Ribbon at 6385-3714, 6386-1928 or 6509-0271.
For the list of psychologists offering their services pro bono or at reduced rates, go here.