UAE Covid restrictions 1 year on: Focus is on improving quality of life

Abu Dhabi - Population has largely managed to tide over the worst of the pandemic with little damage.

By Ashwani Kumar

Published: Tue 23 Mar 2021, 6:31 PM

Last updated: Tue 23 Mar 2021, 6:36 PM

The pandemic threw humanity into a tailspin. Working and studying from home, handling sudden job losses, led to social isolation and strained relationships, which took a toll on our mental health. However, proactive counter measures by local authorities have ensured the population has largely managed to tide over the worst of the pandemic with little damage.

Regular surveys to check on the physical and emotional fallout, awareness campaigns and helpline numbers to offer moral support, community programmes with focus on mental wellbeing and constant motivational messages from the leadership were the high points experienced by the general public as they adjusted to the realities of the new normal.

A ‘Life after Coronavirus’ survey by the Department of Community Development held in the final leg of 2020 showed that 44 per cent of participants felt their mental health had been affected since the beginning of the pandemic, while 38 per cent said their psyche was not affected and remained the same.

Significantly, 55 per cent males and 53 per cent females saw an improvement in their mental health since the start of the pandemic – a promising result of the sundry measures from the authorities targeting all sections of the society.

Figure this, last year the Department of Community Development launched initiatives like ‘You Matter’ for blue-collar workers, ‘Let’s spend time with them’ focused on children, and ‘Because We Care’ and ‘Our Elders, Our Treasure’ for senior citizens. Additionally, hotline numbers and even radio campaigns were introduced.

Apart from support to the financially affected, the Authority of Social Contribution (Ma’an) also provided psychological support to community members, including more than 400 frontline health workers who benefitted from several yoga and meditation sessions.

The Ministry of Community Development launched a mental health helpline for frontline workers and another line for residents to deal with their psychological issues.

In a proactive step, the government has launched the National Digital Wellbeing Policy to support societal leadership in education and remote work. Such and more measures are in the pipeline as the UAE continues to focus on improving the quality of life for its population.

This month, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, pointed out the need for open discussion on the issue of mental health.

“We need to understand that anyone can experience mental health problems. There is no shame in having them. Actually, it is a shame to ignore them. We need to put more effort into studying these problems and raising social awareness. There must be more information in this field, and not just academic studies,” Sheikh Abdullah said during the Mohamed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations where a survey showed that 25 per cent of university students described their mental health as either ‘bad’ or ‘not good’.

“These issues have to be discussed openly, because we cannot avoid the fact that we are human and can face challenges of any kind,” Sheikh Abdullah added.

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File photo

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