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Botswana: Covid-19 Compromises Mental Health

Updated: Aug 24, 2021




12 AUGUST 2021 The Patriot (Gaborone)

By Ludo Maphorisa

Pandemic causes psychological wounds 'Talk freely about death and dying, Prepare for your own death, Save for decent burials, Plan for surviving family and writing a Will can help demystify death' -expert Clinical Psychologist, Thato Molefi, has warned that due to anxiety, fear and distress brought by the rise in Covid19 related suffering and deaths, a mental health disaster is looming. The debilitating impact of Covid19 on mental health are aggravated by economic and financial losses caused by joblesses leading to escalating unemployment alongside high death rates. Each day brings very little hope, just more misery. Molefi said mental illness on unprecedented level is brewing, where citizens could be reduced to emotional zombies due to the Covid19 scourge and its accompanying heartaches. "There are so many pressures of this pandemic that are taking a toll on our mental health as a nation, now is the time we need to be more kind towards each other at every turn," she advises. Molefi says the perceived need to be okay and coping when the world is crumbling has led to people losing their mental wellbeing and being plagued with anxiety and immense sadness. Uncertainty pertaining to health and life of loved ones, availability of needed health resources and stability of personal finances have triggered disproportionate anxieties, she said. To mitigate these, she opines, widespread concerted efforts to impart psychoeducation by experienced and qualified psychologists need to be implemented to all people so as to alleviate their anxieties, and educate on healthy coping mechanisms." Coping with loss has always been difficult, but has proven to be harder in the face of Covid19, where not a day goes by without publication of many condolences messages on mainstream and social media platforms. The loss of loved ones during Covid19 is sudden and made harder to deal with by the protocols and restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. "People are on the edge, ever expecting to hear of deaths but always getting shocked at receiving news of deaths. There is a lot of sadness and heavy heartedness amongst people. The inability to care for sick relatives and loved ones as per our culture has left many with deep psychological wounds. Creating a culture of talking freely about death and dying, preparing for our own death, planning what will happen to surviving family, writing wills, saving up for decent burials, saving up for dependents can help demystify death and allow for interruption of a pending mental health crisis" said Molefi. One of the major distress of Covid19 pandemic in Botswana is social distancing. Molefi explains that human beings by nature are social beings and we cope better when we see people in person during our interactions. She says physical distancing in the allowance of visitation and observing safety protocols would aid in alleviating some of the pandemic stress. "Maintaining consistency in the flow of therapy has been compromised by the need to social distance; group sessions have become a risk and those in different COVID zones have had to forgo attendance due to inter zonal travel restrictions and lock downs" says Molefi. Some therapists have resorted to online/telephonic counseling to bridge the gap created by travel restrictions, quarantine and isolation in light of the toll that COVID-19 is having on our mental state.

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