Mental health must form a crucial part of Malta’s exit strategy from the COVID-19 pandemic, crisis psychiatrist Dr Mark Xuereb told Lovin Malta amid concerns of a surge in at risk individuals.
“Those who have psychological issues might be further marginalised by lack of support network and those who do not have any pre-existing psychological issues might develop them as a result of COVID-19 anxiety,” Xuereb explained.
While the world struggles under lockdown to protect our physical health against COVID-19, a mental health pandemic is already underway.
Xuereb warns that the psychological effects caused by the international health crisis could be huge.
Risk factors for mental health are magnified by the COVID-19 crisis. With people urged to practice social distancing and the looming uncertainty caused by the pandemic, feelings of isolation, uncertainty and instability may all lead to increased risks of diseases such as depression, and in some cases may also increase the risk of suicide.
As the Founder of Fondazzjoni Sokkors fil-Pront, which hosts a 24/7 hotline for crisis consultations including suicide, Xuereb says they have already experienced a surge in callers, with receiving a call every six minutes, peaking on the weekends at around 9pm.
“We need all the stakeholders at the table, to ensure that people get the right help at the right time. We need to be prepared to tackle triaged psychological issues that emerge from this health crisis and dip into past expertise and research to draft a national strategy to mitigate the harm on our nation’s collective mental health.”
Xuereb’s statement reflect findings from a recent survey on COVID-19’s effects on mental heath. Conducted by Richmond Foundation, the study found that 1 out of every 100 respondents said they thought about self harm or suicide all the time. This increased to 3 out of every 100 for respondents aged 16-24 years old.
He calls for a fully equipped, 24/7 crisis team, expanding the services already offered by organisation Crisis Resolution Malta, where the crisis team sees people in the community, out on the frontline to prevent complications and normalises as soon as possible.
“Crisis Resolution Malta needs to be expanded in the government sector to continue and streamline current initiatives. They need to be coordinated through trajectories, were we’re starting and finishing, with timelines and milestones,” he explained.
If your mental well-being is suffering or are dealing with a crisis you can get in touch with an expert on the free 24/7 crisis consultation line on 99339966 or on [email protected]
If your mental well-being is suffering due to COVID-19 or any other reason, you can seek help on the freephone for mental-wellbeing by Richmond Foundation on 1770.