KUALA LUMPUR: The Movement Control Order (MCO) has entered its ninth day, which is seeing some Malaysians already feeling anxious and agitated being confined to their homes with a constant stream of Covid-19 updates.
With the MCO now extended to April 14, medical experts cautioned that information overload may lead to mental health issues. The Health Ministry is also advising the public to care for their emotional wellbeing.
The ministry’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS) said it is common for individuals to feel stressed, worried and anxious during a crisis like the current Covid-19 pandemic.
“Everyone reacts or responds differently to stressful situations. How a person responds to (it) is influenced by the individual’s background, the differences compared to others, and the community they live in.
“Fear and anxiety about Covid-19 can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in an individual.
“A person could also experience anxiety and panic symptoms due to lack of information or facts, rumours and fake news being spread, or being influenced by social media,” MHPSS told the New Straits Times.
MHPSS said spending time indoors could cause a different psychological impact depending on how a person reacts and responds to the situation.
It said while some would experience positive psychological impact such as improving social connectedness with family members, others may go through negative psychological impact.
Among them are increased stress due to not being able to perform outdoor routines and activities or not being able to see friends.
Others are worry and anxiety about not being able to be physically present (for example, to help loved ones), helplessness, boredom, loneliness, and depression.
According to the MHPSS, here’s when a person might require psychosocial support:
1. When he or she experiences drastic changes in sleeping pattern (such as insomnia).
2. Changes in appetite.
3. Extreme mood changes - Easily angry, agitated or irritable, or feeling extremely sad.
4. Severe tiredness and feeling easily fatigued.
5. Withdrawal from family members and friends.
6. Difficulty in focusing or concentrating.
7. Losing interest in the things you love to do.
8. Increased desire for alcohol or tobacco.
The public are advised to eat and drink mindfully, reduce stressors, exercise regularly, practise relaxation exercises, talk to someone they trust, only seek information from reliable sources, and keep a personal daily routine.
“While at home, it is important that you maintain safe communication with your loved ones, friends and social network through existing social media channels to reduce loneliness and psychosocial isolation.
“If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact (with the MCO), you can stay connected via e-mail, social media (WhatsApp, WeChat, Skype, Messenger, Instagram), video conference, telephone and others,” MHPSS said.
The MHPSS also advised the public to spend more time physically with their children and family members, for example, listen and talk to them about their likes and hobbies, help them with their tasks, eat together, and for Muslims, to perform prayers together (solat jemaah) with family members.
“Find new hobbies you can do indoors with family members for example playing carom, chess, board games. Look into new food recipes and try them out. Learn about positive coping skills,” it added.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had in its guide on “Mental Health and Psychosocial Considerations During Covid-19 Outbreak” said the sudden and near-constant stream of news reports about an outbreak can cause anyone to feel worried.
“Minimise watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information only from trusted sources and mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourselves and loved ones. Seek information updates at specific times during the day, once or twice,” it wrote.
For support, contact MHPSS at 011-63996482 / 011-63994236 / 03-29359935 from 8am to 5pm daily or Befrienders at 03-79568145.