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COVID-19 Hurt Our Mental Health… But Here’s What We Can Do About It

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COVID-19 anxiety hit us hard. With it, came anxiety born of a fear that we or our loved ones would get sick. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Society, inevitably, became affected. Lockdowns, restrictions, and the pervading sense of panic have all but wiped out our social support network.

With our mental health at stake, which persons are really at risk? And how can we help them? More importantly, how can they help themselves?

Lovin Malta reached out to Dr. Anton Grech – the Maltese psychiatrist who also serves as a technical advisor to the European COVID-19 commission for advice – and other experts with hopes to find out.

Grech was part of the team that launched the first population-based COVID-19 study in Malta showing that the “pandemic and subsequent public health restrictions had an impact on the population’s hospital admissions for mental health issues.”

The following high-risk groups were seen.

1. Children

The problem:

The gravity of the impact of COVID-19 on our children’s mental health has somewhat flown under our radar. Concern for their safety has led many parents to think that kids would be safer at home.

Coupled with frequent bouts of online learning and the cessation of out-of-school activities, our kiddos have been deprived of the social interaction they would otherwise receive conventionally.

Social isolation in our young ones could impair their ability to interact, now and later. In some cases, it has even led to a form of separation anxiety which saw toddlers, in particular, rely solely on their parents as their exclusive means of interaction.

How would this translate in the future? Children may suffer long-term effects of COVID-19 induced isolations, but the actual effects are still unclear. If we’ve learned anything from the digital world’s impact on our ability to interact with one another at face value, you can’t help but be concerned.

The solution:

Child-to-child interaction is fundamental to their mental development. Parents potentially promote this interaction by creating ‘bubbles’ – tiny groups of friends for their children who are able to hang out together on the regular.

Safe activities could range from a simple walk together, but also hikes, puddle jumping, picnics, trips to parks and beaches.

Don’t want to go out? Bring them home. Activities that involve arts and crafts can be a neat way to promote creativity, improve fine motor skills and have your kids express their identity.

Replacing screen time with playtime and the introduction and having your kids create their own clan of troublemakers could be a path to… ironically… prevent trouble down the line.

2. The Elderly

The problem:

Healthy populations do not only take care of their elders. They prioritise them. So much so, that grandparents often live with their families. This may sound unorthodox, but studies show that caregiving within and even beyond the family was associated with a lower risk of death for the caregiver.

That’s right, giving our elders the ability to look after their grandchildren could improve their health.

That’s not all. Dwindling social support networks wrought by the pandemic served as another hefty punch in the elderly showing early signs of dementia. This, because the social interaction received from loved ones can potentially mitigate the progression of the disease.

The solution:

Get those kids to their grandparents, for starters. But more importantly, don’t leave them behind.

Keeping grandma and grandpa as the fulcrum of the family could see them cruise through the pandemic in the most productive way possible. Hell, the warmth that comes with caring for their young ones could even turn this ordeal into a pleasant outcome? Who knows?

3. The overweight

The problem:

Lack of activity, lack of places to perform the activity, and a predisposition to turn towards the less healthful foods. A perfect storm with a rather unpleasant outcome.

The journey to an unhealthy weight is fun and all, but the problems that come with it are not. People who are overweight have been shown to have worse COVID-19 outcomes.

The solution:

A simple COVID-19 lockdown could be made into a platform for a positive transformational too.

More time on your hands could mean more time to work a sweat. And fewer ways and means to make money could prompt one to spend money on cheaper foods that promote health (fruit, vegetables, and beans as opposed to rich foods and takeaways).

Getting in touch with professionals is one way to do it. Many of them have reverted to online platforms of personal training which means that you can put the work in… from home.

Additionally, apps on your phone which structure bodyweight workouts or outdoor runs for you open additional avenues to get in shape.

Imagine coming into a post-COVID-19 world looking like Thor from the Avengers. Now that would be something.

4. Persons already suffering from mental health issues

The problem:

The general population suffered anxiety born of several concerns. Financial concerns and job security are at the front of people’s minds. And with anxiety hot upon our heels in everyday life, it places most of us at risk for developing depression.

The pandemic had a worsening effect on the severity of patients’ mental illnesses. Persons who had otherwise stopped their treatment experienced substantial relapses.

‘Seeking help’ sounds like the obvious solution, but to many, the connotations with hospitalisation, psychiatric assistance, and medication are clear.

Without question, that avenue need sometimes be explored. But before we go there, we tend to underestimate the value our friends and family have on our psyche.

The solution:

Reach out to your friends, your family, your elders. Create a bubble similar to the kiddos have. Granted, that doesn’t mean a thirty-two-year-old man should engage in arts and crafts with his mates (although there is nothing wrong with that). But partaking in adventures, even gaming in the comfort of your own living room can present an opportunity to garner that much-needed social interaction.

It might be worthwhile to know that the emergency department at Mater Dei Hospital enlisted a resident psychiatrist entrusted with urgent matters.

In non-urgent cases, general practitioners across the island are able to refer persons to appropriate care. There is also a helpline, manned by the Richmond foundation (1770), and community health centers that have enlisted the services of qualified psychiatrists.


Concerns still remain with respect to whether there could be a large impact in the years to come, though much is still uncertain.

Currently, plans are in motion at a European level that would see screening processes implemented as a way to prevent mental breakdowns.

In Malta, we could already see such services taking shape in the community.

If you or someone you know needs to talk about their mental health, please call national support service 179. Alternatively, visit www.kellimni.com; the Richmond Foundation’s OLLI.chat to get in touch online; or the  Kif Int? website.

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