We’re days into the second month of the enhanced community quarantine, and the virus continues to cause more fatalities. Watching numbers of positive cases rise, wondering how society can recover from this, and fearing for the safety of our loved ones can cause serious strain on our mental health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated that as the pandemic continues, people must stay vigilant of their mental health. Our anxieties cause more than just fear and worry—it can affect our overall health. CDC reports that the stress caused by this outbreak can lead to a difficulty in sleeping and eating, as well as a worsening of chronic health problems.
Everybody can be a victim to this pandemic-induced anxiety with their own set of worries and concerns. Parents may be fussing over the safety and future of their children; children may be left confused at the sudden shift in daily activities; the elderly are at constant fear of their health and immune systems; and those in isolation are battling bouts of loneliness.
This is especially difficult for frontliners who must stay focused when treating or diagnosing patients despite high risks of infection. Some healthcare workers also have to be isolated from their families and loved ones to lessen risks of contamination. The pressure and fear these frontliners must feel can lead to serious mental and emotional strain.
What’s important to remember, however, is that no one is alone in this battle, and with this collective fear also comes a mutual understanding to help each other. At the forefront of addressing mental health issues are psychologists and therapists. With their expertise, those of us who have been experiencing emotional and mental difficulties can turn to them for counselling. Face-to-face consultation may temporarily be unavailable, but technology has paved the way for online therapy sessions, known more as telepsychotherapy.
The University of the Philippines Diliman Psychological Services (UPD PsycServ), a team of licensed psychologists and psychosocial support specialists, was one of the first to offer telepsychotherapy services amid COVID-19 to frontliners specifically. In recent developments, telecom giant Globe Telecom has partnered with them and New Good Feelings (NGF) Mindstrong’s Hopeline to offer free counselling services or psychotherapy to anyone who needs it.
Those who are in need of mental counseling (especially frontliners, suspected, probable and positive COVID-19 patients and their loved ones) can simply send a text or Viber message with their name and concern to UPD PsycServ through 0906-3743466 or 0916-7573157. They may also opt to accomplish the form online and wait for a call from a PsycServ volunteer any time from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays.
Dr. Violeta V. Bautista, PsycServ Director and Clinical Psychology Program Chair of the UPD Department of Psychology says that through this service, people can still feel connected to others even if it is through text or calls. “Indeed physical distancing is hard but we can still enable people to connect for encouragement and comfort.”
Other mental health organizations have also taken on telepsychotherapy to help the growing issue of mental health problems. During a time when social distancing is necessary, mobile text messages and calls, video conferences, or online calls have proven to be most beneficial–both for connecting with our loved ones, checking up on our mental health and even reporting possible fatalities.
In order to maintain a strong digital connection among the country’s citizens, Globe is also providing Amazon Connect Private Automatic Branch eXchange (PABX) service to NGF’s Mindstrong, a service that offers psychotherapy for its responders, so that its employees can continue to take and receive calls from their 2919 hotline while at home. For Globe and TM customers, calling their hotline is toll free.
COVID-19 may not have affected the whole population, but its presence in itself is a strain on our mental health. Therefore, when it seems like it’s too much to handle, seeking for help is a must and nobody should be deprived of this opportunity. As private institutions like Globe and mental health organizations have stepped up to be of help, it is also our duty to take care of ourselves in order to alleviate the effects of this pandemic.
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Writer: THEA TORRES