Anxiety, depression takes toll on 30% of Nigerians amid Covid-19
The World Health Organisation earlier this year, declared the outbreak of a new viral pandemic, COVID-19 and over time, what seemed like a disease affecting “far-away China”, has enveloped the entire world, leading to panic, emergency responses and unusual unprecedented measures.
With all these, comes stress at different levels. Also, because this was unplanned, it will be much harder for some to adjust, compared to others.
“Adverse effects of this will include anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, bingeing, paranoia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for people that have previously experienced situations like this.” Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, Psychiatrist/Psychotherapist, MD, Pinnacle Medical Services said.
Currently, over 350 million people worldwide are suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. In Nigeria, experts have said approximately 25-30 percent of Nigerians are in this category and as such, there are predictions that there will be a spike in anxiety and depression cases diagnosed.
While experts might not be able to pin an exact number, it is safe to say that the numbers are quite high and is most likely growing on an arithmetic progression.
With the lockdown, fear of the unknown, consistent inflow of news (both fake and real), social distancing, increasing numbers of sufferers and deaths, lack of jobs, loss of jobs, incessant robbery attacks in various parts of Lagos state and worst of all, hunger, it isn’t surprising that statistics show that the rates of anxiety and depression is on the rise in Nigeria at this period.
“Approximately 25 to 30 percent of Nigerians suffers from one form of anxiety or depression in this period of COVID-19. Considering multiple sources of information available, where many are conduit of fake news, anxiety can easily be reinforced. So, we must ensure to seek information from reliable sources, such as NCDC and WHO websites” said Muideen Owolabi Bakare, Chief Consultant Psychiatrist (Consultant Special Grade 1), Head, Child and Adolescent Unit, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Enugu.
Muideen says, concerning COVID-19, to ease the burden of anxiety and depression, despite being contagious; we should note that infection with the virus is not a death sentence because statistics has clearly shown that 9 in 10 people survive the infection and the severity had appeared milder especially in sub-Saharan African countries.
Despite the alarming rate of increase in sufferers across Nigeria recently, it is encouraging to note that gradually, the number of survivors are slowly but surely gaining momentum in numbers, as there are reported cases of several discharges nevertheless; experts have said survivors of COVID-19 may suffer from adjustment disorder that can present itself with symptoms of depression, anxiety among others in the individual.
“The best way to overcome any form of stigmatization is to face reality and not denials. Individual survivors should be willing to freely tell their story to as many as possible, document their experience for the benefit of others, and in the process become advocates preaching preventive strategies to others.” Muideen stated.
For Kadiri, this is something none of them has experienced before. For some, with higher adversity quotient, they might be able to accept what has happened and move on with their lives, but some might not be so lucky. “As they are being discharged, they should also be put in touch with a therapist who is able to debrief them and help them through the range of emotions they might be feeling.” She recommended.
To avoid stigmatization, Maymunah insists that the families and communities of survivors must be compassionate. She asserts that survivors need to understand and accept the incident, and also be opened to knowing how to deal with it. According to her, “In such a situation, emotional intelligence comes to play. The discharged family member should not be ostracized or treated gingerly; this could be negative reinforcement and can make the patient feel worse than intended.”
Despite various reasons given as cause of depression or anxiety in this season, basic needs like provision of food and power will go a long way in soothing the pain and discomfort caused by the pandemic. To this end, the medical experts agree that Government should intensify effort to at least provide such palliatives for people that their source of income is derived from daily business activities. From subsidizing social services like electricity among others during this period, would greatly help ease the discomfort.
On the issue of safety, “Adequate security should be provided to protect lives and properties. Nigerians should obey Government directives on restriction of movement, social distancing and wearing of face mask in public spaces to create barrier from infection.” Bakare advised.
While Kadiri says, prevalent among her patients in this season of COVID-19 are complaints like lockdown fatigue and distorted sleep patterns, fear of the unknown, anxiety about the future, depression and suicidal thoughts, one of Nigeria’s leading high performance coaches and business strategist, Management Consultant and Chief Executive Officer, EdgeEcution, Steve Harris, said most of the people he is coaching in this season, are concerned about how long the lockdown is going to be, and when can they return to work.
“I have been telling them to use this lockdown as an opportunity to be more introspective and ask ‘how can I come out of this better?’, ‘how can I keep the customers attention even if they’re not buying as they usually would?’, ‘how can I add more value to them and make sure I build a stronger emotional connection with them?’ He said.
To those in panic mode and wondering what to do, Steve said “Just breathe. Be grateful. It could be a lot worse. You’re alive and hopefully haven’t been affected physically by this virus. We might never get this much free time ever again.
Now is the time to love on yourself, accomplish some goals, bond with your family and loved ones and more importantly , create some beautiful memories with those around you.” Said Steve.
Being extremely stressed or mentally ill are issues the experts have agreed may be on the rise this period, they have also concurred that this can be alleviated by being in control of keeping your mental space healthy.
They advise that if you feel confined to your home, you can take a walk around your home, compound or down the street, properly kitted with protective measures, engage in light exercises, or a spontaneous activity with your family like playing charades. They agree to this, submitting that once you realize it’s your decision to keep yourself stable, you begin to make actions to follow suit.