A Clinical Psychology expert has shared tips to overcome crisis that are a consequence of COVID-19 pandemic, to make sure that Rwanda and the world at large gets through without losing many lives and social cohesion.
Dr. Cindi Cassady from Ikizere clinic recently caught up with KT Video’s Richard Kwizera and shared her professional understanding of the pandemic and how to cope with it.
From the United States to Rwanda where she served in medical sector for the last seven years, Cassady indicated that for a fact, the pandemic has had an effect on every aspect of people’s lives here and worldwide, but the community should not sit back.
The pandemic affected capacity to earn a living, how families interact and relate with each other and this largely affected mental health.
“Rwandans are people who like to socialize but imagine having to select people who can attend a wedding and a funeral. It is very difficult for Rwandans,” she said.
Normally, Ikizere treats problems related to trauma, addiction and other mental health issues like depression, anxiety, to mention quite a few.
Cassady said that there has been a “dramatic increase in the number of people with depression, anxiety and problems with addiction following COVID-19 pandemic.”
“People who were not drinking before have started drinking as a way of coping with the situation and they are worried that this is not normal for them. Luckily enough, some of them come to seek help from here which is a good thing,” she said.
While the expert cannot ascertain about the statistics since there has been no research, Cassady is aware that even those that were only drinking occasionally have become to some extent addicted.
“Unfortunately there is no statistics here in Rwanda, but in US, it was found that there is a 40% increase in drinking and heavy drinking has dramatically increased,” she said.
Normally, she said, people would have a drink once twice a week, but they are drinking every night.
“The other factor is that Women are drinking more now, than before. Women who would have a drink when they go out with friends, with family, they are now drinking more regularly to cope with the situation.”
Dr. Cassady is well aware, that these challenges can be overcome in a solid community like Rwanda where everyone is able to listen to the neighbor or relative.
“When the person with COVID-19 is one of the parents, it is important to assure the family that the relative will be okay. Several publicity tend to mean that if one has COVID-19, he is going to die and this can be worrisome for children,” she said.
“If the mother is sick and in isolation, there should be a way of integrating her in daily business. For example, she can take her video and share stories, children can wave to her from the window when they go to play, so that they understand that she is okay.”
This is most especially important for young children who needs to be assured that the mother is fine, according to Dr. Cassady.
The children can also be allowed to mark a calendar to track the mother who is in 14 days isolation. They can mark off each day so they know “Oh! Mom will be coming out in four days. They need concrete cues that help them.”
The expert advises that this is a good time to start communicating with each other, listening to each other, trying to be more compassionate when you know that one of the family member is struggling emotionally.
As far as stigma against COVID-19 patients is concerned, the psychologist suggests that it is important for the public to avoid conspiracy theories and to only listen to messages from Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) and World Health Organisation (WHO).
COVID-19 Fatigue and Somnia
Dr. Cassady said that COVID-19 is coming with new terms, including COVID fatigue where everyone wants life to come back to normal.
“We want to socialize with each other, to go to work, but the situation cannot allow it. I think the best thing to do now is to allow people to talk about their frustration if they are worried, if they are concerned that they are going to lose their jobs,” she said.
She believes that is not going to save jobs, but it will avoid people to be depressed, or losing sleeps.
“There is another term called Coronasomnia; normally, we talk about insomnia, when people can’t sleep and that happens to many people for many reasons. But, there is a problem of people who cannot sleep, spend night while thinking about their losing jobs due to COVID-19 pandemic.”
The specialists suggests that one of the best way to prevent mental health problems, is by talking about them, doing self-care, exercising, eating healthy food and reaching out/connecting to each other.
Dr. Cassady says that every family should now behave differently because the worst can surprise them before they have shared their expression of love.
“The time you spend with family is important. You have to let the people you stay with know that you love them because you don’t know who may get sick and who might die,” she said.
“And, even while at the Intensive Care Unit where family members cannot visit, you may involve a nurse to take a video and share with the family.”
For bereaved families, she said they should also be able to make a decision on whom to invite for funeral, but to also be able to communicate with other family members to see how they can grieve.
“We are all in this together, but I hope we shall overcome. However, it is time to realize that we can all have mental problems. Depression, anxiety are normal reactions to an incredibly stressful time like this,” Cassady said.
“So, it is important to be compassionate with people who have mental health problems before and after COVID-19.”
The Rwandan community would have a need to pick some tips from Dr. Cassady’s message. New wave of COVID-19 has become severe with now 14,529 cumulative cases and 186 deaths as of January 28th.