Covid-19: Pandemic transformed attitudes towards mental health, says expert

1 in 5 respondents say they are now more likely to reach out for support


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Published: Thu 4 Nov 2021, 10:07 PM

The Covid-19 pandemic has had one positive impact - a transformation in people’s attitudes towards mental health, a leading UAE-based expert said.

Mandeep Jassal, bevavioural, therapist at the Priory Wellbeing Centre in Dubai, said a new poll showed that 1 in 5 respondents (18 per cent) said they were now more likely to reach out for support, with one in ten (10 percent) stating they had sought mental health treatment for the first time in the wake of the pandemic.

While Covid-19 has undoubtedly left devastation in its wake, Jassal believes that one positive outcome has been a greater openness and understanding of mental health issues which can offer long-term benefits.

“The pandemic has caused much turmoil across the world, but it’s important that we also take the positives where we can find them,” she says. “One of these is the fact that conversations about mental health have become much more commonplace – it is no longer an issue which is simply brushed under the carpet. As a result, people are also more likely to seek professional help.”


Results of the survey highlights concern

The results of the Priory’s survey flagged a number of concerns about the impact of the pandemic on mental health, with 1 in 3 (34 percent) saying it had been “the most stressful and anxiety-ridden period of their life”. Around 1 in 4 (24 percent) said the state of their mental health had been exacerbated by fear of job loss, or fears about their finances as a result of a job already lost. Nearly half (49 percent) said stress and “feeling overwhelmed” during Covid-19 had made it difficult to do their job properly.

It is these challenges which have brought mental health issues to prominence and opened the door to a change in attitudes when it comes to seeking help, says the bevavioural therapist. One area in which the Priory Wellbeing Clinic Dubai has seen a marked upturn in people asking for support is relationship counselling, where there has been an 11 percent increase in those being treated since the start of the pandemic.

Jassal explains that it was inevitable that some relationships would be put under strain during the pandemic because of issues such as the increased proximity enforced on people during home-working restrictions. Her views are backed up by The Priory’s UK-based poll, which reveals that more than one in four people questioned (26 percent) think their relationship with their partner worsened over the period.

“The pandemic in effect removed the ability for many couples to maintain a healthy balance in life,” she says. “When this happens, relations become strained, and can result in negative thinking such as ‘I can’t cope’ and ‘I am failing in this relationship’, which can lead to dysfunctional and repetitive behaviours such as snapping or avoiding certain conversations.

“Couples have had to make major adjustments to their relationship, which for many has brought tensions to the surface in a heightened, often emotional way, with many worried about whether the damage was irreversible, and others just feeling a sense of rejection and worthlessness.”

In the Priory team’s experience over the last 12 months, the most prominent issues which have been a real test to a couple’s resilience and exacerbated disharmony have included: a lack of privacy and personal space; adjustment to a new pace and daily routine; work and financial stress; childcare issues; uneven split of household tasks, miscommunication and a general lack of quality interaction. For some, previous routines had masked pre-existing problems and differences, which had nowhere to hide during the pandemic.

The Priory Group’s UK survey revealed that those who were hardest hit by the impact of the pandemic were aged 18-34, among whom 70 percent had suffered from significant economic and emotional effects. This group was also more likely to be in the early stages of a relationship, when couples are still learning about each other and have not yet fully developed the ‘friendship system’ found among those in long-term relationships.


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