When COVID-19 hit, we rushed to handle the finances, food, and employment issues but we forgot one important aspect, our mental health.
We sidelined the very aspect that helps us function normally.
COVID-19 has brought a lot of changes, changes we never thought would be two years ago. The new normal is taking a toll on people’s mental health.
Many people are drowning in depression, they have been retrenched, they have fears of contracting COVID-19 and the lockdowns are suffocating.
People do not enjoy the freedom they used to. That is why it is important that they are provided with the right psycho-social help offered by professionals. During this pandemic people must know who to talk to when they are anxious or stressed.
Frontliners and essentials should be counselled so they are mentally prepared to perform their jobs. Students should be provided with counselling to make them understand what we are dealing with. The mind is sensitive and irreversible damage can result if it is not taken care.
The Botswana Counselling Association (BCA) president, Tshepo Shoshong says COVID-19 has forced people to adapt to changes quickly. One moment there are a small number of cases and the next there are many.
“This on its own changes people’s coping strategies and its especially worse for people with mental health issues like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as they are taken out of their comfort zone,” he says.
“We are now an anxious nation because when there is a case we start wondering if we have been in contact with the person and our anxiety rises and panic attacks starts.”
The impact of COVID-19 is worse when it meets pre-existing mental conditions. People already suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, schizophrenia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder need greater balance and coping strategies.
‘’As BCA we had about 300 cases during the first lockdown ranging from gender-based violence, marital issues, and loneliness and we have opened our lines for communication.”
According to Shoshong, Batswana now live with the paranoia that one of them might have the virus hence stress being triggered. He adds that people are now ‘helpless and hopeless’ with everything taking place because they cannot do anything about the virus.
“One day they are told to do this and the next thing another different thing hence their emotional imbalance being low,” Shoshong said.
“Individuals are overwhelmed by fears which end up causing post traumatic disorder because some have issues coming from as far as childhood and COVID-19 ends up bring those to light.”
The BCA says that COVID-19 has affected people’s daily routines. Previously, people would to go work, then maybe bar or a restaurant before returning home. They used to freely go to church for spiritual support but COVID-19 has interrupted all that.
“By going to churches or bars, some of these people were now trying to run away from abusers at home,” Shoshong explains.
“Now they have to spend a lot of time with them.”
According to the BCA president, people can try to deal with the pandemic by controlling their emotions, feelings, and thoughts.
The BCA advises people to do that by reducing the number of toxic information they receive from television and social media.
“We are advising people to develop the positive attitude that this pandemic will pass.
“People should limit their social media intake and create a peaceful mind and soul.
“They should develop a mental health and physical plan of how they are going to cope when things do not go according to plan.
“They should develop intervention strategies that will help them cope.”
The BCA is providing telephonic debriefing sessions where people can call to talk to a professional counsellor. The Association has a list of all professional counsellors registered with them around the country.
“We receive close to 100 cases on our Facebook pages a day. If our counsellor cannot help, we refer to organisations like BOSASNET, Botswana Gender Support Network amongst others.
“We also have radio shows that offer motivation and we are now providing counselling through WhatsApp, video conferencing and phone calls,” Shoshong says.
Here is a shortlist of where you can get help:
BOSASNET for alcohol and drug addiction
Botswana Gender-based Violence Support Network
University of Botswana Careers and Counselling Services
UB Psychology Clinic
Botswana Network for Mental Health
“Take a step back, adapt to changes, learn to live with the pandemic, discuss your fears, talk to a professional counsellor,” Shoshong says.
*Tshegetsang Tebelelo is a final year student at the University of Botswana pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Counselling. She is a published author and is passionate about writing