KARACHI - Pakistan Psychiatric Society (PPS), comprising registered psychiatrists from across the country, has drawn attention of both federal and provincial governments towards deep-set impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of the masses in general.

PPS President, Prof.Dr Muhammad Iqbal Afridi in a statement emphasizing the fact that outbreak of a global pandemic causes fear and concern among many called for a mechanism to ensure emotional and mental well being of not only the infected individuals and their respective families but all citizens of the country.

“Urgent steps are needed to incorporate efficient care towards mental health of people in the strategies being adopted for COVID-19 management,” he said .

“Considering the current situation of this pandemic, the biological aspect is essential but psychological and behavioral facets must also not be ignored as there exists no treatment to fight the grave disease nor any vaccine for its prevention,” emphasized  Prof. Afridi, also the Dean of Jinnah Sindh Medical University and Chairman, Psychiatry Department, Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Center.

He in this context reminded that there had been  an established  linkage between the outbreak of acute respiratory infections and mental disorders during Influenza and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) during 1990s.

“Symptoms of the viral infection such as cough and fever may also cause worsening  cognitive distress and anxiety among people due to fear of contracting COVID-19,” added the senior psychiatrist reiterating that change of behavior and psychological attitudes to observe the established guidelines - that emphasize hand washing, observing hygiene and maintaining physical distancing are essential components of Behavioral Vaccination.

Dr. Afridi said people must be made to realize that social isolation is not the prerequisite but physical distancing is required  and that they can remain into contact with their friends and relatives via different modes of social media.

Mentioning that people in lockeddown areas could be particularly stressed and exposed to symptoms of varied psychological disorders as low mood, insomnia, anxiety, anger, irritability, emotional exhaustion and depression, the PPS President  also warned about public vulnerability to post traumatic stress consequent to ensuing economic crisis at global as well as regional levels.    

Taking strong exception to “Coronaphobia” (fear of contracting COVID-19) due to microscopic coverage of the disease and associated sensationalism, he said this was creating lot of chaos that could have been avoided.

“The at-risk  groups for long term mental health issues will be the healthcare workers,who are on the frontline, closely followed by young people under 30, children, elderly and those in precarious situations owing to mental illness, disability and poverty,” elaborated the senior mental healthcare expert.