Covid-19 could take toll on people's mental health, say experts

Health experts and psychologists acknowledge that the battle with Covid-19 could potentially affect the well-being of some people here. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Fighting and coping with the coronavirus outbreak is not just a physical or medical challenge, but a psychological one as well.

Health experts and psychologists acknowledge that the battle with Covid-19 could potentially affect the well-being of some people here.

Taken to the extreme, this could even make them anxious, depressed and even fearful.

However, while the experts said that the current climate is challenging for all, resilience, community spirit and positivity can go a long way in mitigating the difficulties.

So too can support from family, friends and the larger community, like employers and the Government, in the form of schemes such as the recently announced Resilience Budget.

Other measures to support households, including the Care and Support Package, as well as a commitment to ensure a stable supply of essential health products and food commodities, also go a long way to alleviate stressors faced by Singaporeans.

On Tuesday (March 31), the Monetary Association of Singapore (MAS) and the financial sector introduced measures that will allow individuals to apply to their banks and insurers to defer repayment of property loans, as well as premium payments for life and health insurance plans.

There will also be further assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises.

Dr Jessie Chua, senior clinical psychologist at Resilienz Clinic, told The New Paper her clinic has seen a rise in the number of students with stress and anxiety concerns.

She said: "Many, especially those taking major examinations, are facing extreme stress and anxiety, particularly due to the uncertainty they are constantly facing."

Dr Chua said the fear of contact has also possibly added a barrier for those who need to seek help.

"Many don't dare to leave their homes and won't come to the clinic or reach out for help - particularly the older folks," she said.

Psychologist Evonne Lek said the Covid-19 crisis has created a combination of economic and financial instability, and there has been a severe disruption of habit and the normal structure of life.

The usual worry over health has become doubly concerning, especially for those with underlying health issues, experts stressed.


Psychotherapist Jennifer Wickham told TNP: "People who have struggled with addiction in the past will have the additional stressor of being isolated and potentially unable to get to the support resources they have used to remain sober in the past.

"Financial concerns and loss of security can also contribute to relapse of drug and alcohol use."

Mr Gasper Tan, chief executive of Samaritans of Singapore, said having a strong social network plays an important role in such times. The more one feels connected, the less likely he is to suffer, he said.

For Ms Wickham, some of the impact of the fear and uncertainty has already manifested itself.

She cited hoarding and panic buying in supermarkets as examples of people acting on their fears at the instability and uncertainty they face.

Experts said that while the media can provide useful and accurate information, too much information can also create confusion and panic.

But Dr Chua said there is already a silver lining many can take from the Covid-19 storm.

"There is more time to be spent with family and in learning to enjoy one's own company," she insisted.

"Often, parents say that their kids have many distractions, but now, with far fewer distractions and more time together, it's a good opportunity to look inward and bond more."


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