As front-liners scramble to save as many lives as they can, others rush in to save the sanity of some people.
“Our anxiety and fears should be acknowledged and not be ignored, but better understood and addressed by individuals, communities and governments,” said Dr. Hans Henri Kluge, World Health Organization regional director for Europe, in a statement.
These days, physical and mental health is vital to resilience.
“This is the time to create and to hope. This is the time for families to communicate and heal. The things you’ve always wanted to do but never had time to do before, do them now,” Queena Lee-Chua, clinical psychologist and math professor at Ateneo de Manila University, told Lifestyle.
School may be out, but for Chua and the rest of the university’s faculty mentors, all volunteers, work goes on. Chua now has her hands full handling 50 students whose problems range from anxiety to depression to self-harm. Of the 50, about 10 are critical cases, she said.
Students go online with their faculty mentors. Chua, who wants to see her patients, prefers to use Skype.
“There is some stuff I know we cannot handle, that’s when I need them to take medication. I would alert the guidance office,” Chua said.
When talk therapy is not enough, the school has a partnership with The Medical City, whose pharmaceutical clinic accepts digital prescriptions.
Anxiety among the young understandably went up, Chua said, but the depression, surprisingly, did not. Some students confessed that since everyone is in “such a bad state” during the lockdown, that made them feel good. It made them feel good, she continued, that, for once, they were not alone in their misery.
“Maybe I should think beyond the self. Everybody seems to be in the same boat. Somehow, I think, and I will, and I promise I will be better,” one student disclosed.
Chua said parents and grandparents should take this opportunity to get to know their families. One grandfather thought he had nothing exciting to say to his grandson who’s often focused on his gadgets.
Then, one day, he casually mentioned life during World War II in an attempt to draw parallelism to today’s lockdown. To his surprise, his grandson set aside the game console and gave him his full attention: “Tell me more.”
As long as people feel they are not alone, they will hold on, Chua said.
“Look for positive news,” Chua said, “to avoid getting depressed.” She said the Vatican message from the pope is a winner among her patients.
Even doing something as simple as donating money online to help can make a depressive feel good about themselves.
Chua said art therapy works. Expressive therapy is good, she said, because people can channel their anxiety into art. This is also an excellent time to do crafts.
“All we do right now is consume, but we should be creators rather than consumers. Challenge yourself to create something like Lego Masters. Jigsaw puzzles or coloring can calm anxiety. Anything creative is a more lasting therapy for depression and anxiety.”
There is counseling available online, Chua said, some are even free but always double-check that they have a proper license.
“May I also ask young people to stop streaming Netflix or limit their streaming time, to save bandwidth for the front-liners,” Chua said. “Sometimes, my patients would cry, and we would lose connection.” INQ