During last Tuesday’s edition of Bay Chats with Drew and Noel, the Mental Health Commissioner, Dr John M Cachia spoke about what psychological support is given to the healthcare frontliners during these challenging times, whilst also stating that his Office underwent an Operational Review to ensure continuity to people within our society who suffer from Mental Health Conditions.
Whilst any circumstance bears with it a certain level of psychological baggage, the COVID-19 outbreak is causing an additional burden on the healthcare frontliners’ mental health, as they too have what Commissioner Cachia described as the “fear of the unknown”, and to ensure that our frontliners contain this fear more than anyone else, they have psychological support available.
Dr Cachia said that this service is being widely used by all medical frontliners, adding that his Office insisted that this service is also offered and made available to the carers who work within Old People’s Homes and other care institutions.
Commissioner Cachia also said that, as an Office, the first thing they did when the COVID-19 outbreak hit Malta was an operational review of the services in place to people who suffered from Mental Health problems, irrespective of the outbreak.
“Our priorities have always been set on protecting the rights of people who suffer from mental health issues, as well as putting mental health high on the national agenda as much as possible,” Dr Cachia said, whilst explaining that this review has guaranteed that there is continuity for these individuals.
From the beginning of the pandemic the office had already evaluated some 120 application from people with mental health problems, “which, however represents a 20% decrease of what the office usually deals with,” implying that they are already noticing that there are people, who perhaps out of fear of contracting the virus, have taken a step back when it came to seeking the help which they usually seek.
“This is happening despite having insisted that people still have access to their psychologist or psychiatrist, and even though the Office has ensured that people could still receive their regular medication,” Commissioner Cachia said whilst also announcing that he insisted for discussions and assistance to be given via phone, or virtually, to ensure that continuinity is indeed guaranteed.
When should I seek advice?
The Mental Health Commissioner said that it is normal to worry about any given situation such as the COVID-19 outbreak. However, what is not normal is worrying about any given situation all day long, causing changes in the way you live your day, affecting the way you interact with others, and affecting your temper levels.
“If you reach this stage, then you would be close to having serious problems, and that is when you should reach out for help,” Dr Cachia said.
He said that before reaching this tipping point, it is of extreme importance, to research and read background information which would be from good and reliable sources, and in small daily doses – and not watching TV or hearing to Radio Programmes which are constantly tackling COVID-19 all day long.
On concluding, Dr John M Cachia gave three pieces of advice to the Maltese public:
- Personal Hygiene and Social Distancing remain of utmost importance, irrespective of the COVID-19 Outbreak
- Seek Correct and Precise Information in small doses, so that you will always know what is going on, from reliable sources
- Know yourself, and know your body. Accept that you too could be passing through a difficult and challenging time. If you see and realise that whatever is happening around you is disturbing your life in a way that it is affecting your eating patterns, and your sleeping patterns, seek help. “Help is available – 1770, your psychiatrist, your family doctor. You should not go through this alone. Sharing your thoughts with someone is always the best way forward.”