Being creative, virtual activities among ways to cope with loneliness during pandemic, says mental health expert


PETALING JAYA: Besides depression, the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic has brought heightened anxiety and a marked increase of violent domestic behaviours into the lives of Malaysians, says a mental health expert.

Assoc Prof Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan said an augmented case of anxiety is being seen among Malaysians, as they worry about a plethora of things including catching the virus, maintaining self hygiene and managing social situations in the new normal, all the while feeling isolated.

The Taylor’s University Bachelor of Psychology and Centre for Human Excellence and Development (CHED) director said people's anxiety about the pandemic, which has been ongoing for over a year, is also spilling into the way they now socialise and mix with others.

"For example, there's this case whereby this individual, who was very sociable before the pandemic, suddenly found herself so overwhelmed when she received three visitors during the MCO break late last year.

"It was just three guests, but she felt so anxious and overwhelmed because she had been self-isolating for months," she said.

Another worrying mental health issue observed by Dr Anasuya among Malaysians during the pandemic was domestic violence and violent behaviours within families.

"People are stuck together at home and forced into prolonged contact, so unfortunately, certain behaviours tend to be exaggerated and tempers tend to flare.

"There has been a marked increase in violence and not so nice behaviours in individuals and families.

"There are people being stuck with their abuser because the abuser is a partner or family member.

"And there are also couples who break up during the pandemic because being locked up together at home is harder on their relationship than they thought," she said.

Dr Anasuya said people are being mentally, emotionally and financially affected, especially when they have been cut off from their loved ones or if they have family members who are sick across state lines.

She suggested some ways to cope with the loneliness and longing one feels for their loved ones whom they are unable to meet currently.

“How we cope is by trying to make things special. One way is to send care packages, it can just even be food or something handmade.

“Be creative in terms of how to go about it, do it in an interesting way and catered to the age of the recipients.

“If it’s a care package for the elderly, homemade gift cards or something that you spent some time on making would be great, as they value our time above all else.

“Virtually doing things in a group may also be a way to alleviate loneliness, such as a mutual cooking session, as it is not static like sitting together and viewing a video, ” she added.

On Friday (May 21), the Health Ministry said that its psycho-social assistance hotlines received a total of 145,173 calls between March 25 last year and May 20 this year with 85.5% involving the need for emotional and counselling support for acute stress, depression, restlessness, abuse and suicidal tendencies.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said last year alone, a total of 1,080 people who attempted suicide received treatments at government hospitals.

Realising that there will be extended mental problems, Dr Adham said the Ministry will place 200 psychological officers via contract service to assist with mental health patients in all districts and government health clinics.

Those struggling with emotional breakdown can call Talian Kasih at 15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999 to seek help and emotional support.

Another organisation helping those struggling emotionally is the Befrienders who can be reached at 03-7627 2929 or www.befrienders.org.my.

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