The Corona virus, commonly known as Corvid-19 has changed lives in ways that nobody ever anticipated. For the past seven months, we have witnessed chaos, stress and uncertainty about the future.
Everyone at some point in time got worried of getting sick or even having a loved one get sick, losing a job, getting laid off, schooling kids online at home, loneliness, despair, and lack of control over when Covid-19 will end.
According to a survey done in June 2020 by strong minds, a mental health organization working in Uganda, many women reported experiencing heightened mental distress due to recent world events, citing increased unemployment, food insecurity, household violence, and substance abuse stemming from the pandemic.
Many women in Northern Uganda experience more depression and anxiety, than men because most of them are the primary caretakers of the family. Most of them run small businesses that were closed down to curtail community corvid-19 infections, yet they had to fend for their families. This challenge is enough to cause stress, coupled with other multiple stressors is overwhelming.
Apiyo Kevin is a mother of 5 whose husband is locked up in South Sudan where he works. Apiyo used to sell foodstuff at laroo market for survival but with the stay home directive enacted by the president, Apiyo lost her only source of livelihood. Life became difficult that they had to switch from 3 to 1 meal a day in an attempt to save food stuff for the next day.
Because she didn’t know how to manage this stress, Apiyo experienced emotional and mental breakdown as she started developing sleep problems, headaches, tiredness, loss of concentration, irritability, sadness, lower levels of motivation, and depression. This emotional toll took a huge impact on her leading to feelings of anger towards her children who she was supposed to protect.
“I am so stressed that I don’t know if I want to live anymore. Life is so hard, I also feel bad that I can’t provide for my children any longer” she tearfully elaborates.
Many women in Northern Uganda experience what Apiyo is going through. It is tough for them especially after going through the trauma of the Lord’s resistance Army 2-decade war that ravaged the region. This has affected their ability to respond to this covid crisis situation with a positive mindset.
Laker Milly a resident of Awere in Omoro district is also having a mental breakdown as she lost her job at a restaurant where she was working as a waitress.
The restaurant closed down due to the pandemic and the lockdowns announced.
“I have been locked down here, alone, away from my family, I lost my only job that used to feed me, now I can’t even afford to feed myself “she elaborates.
Ms., Akullo, Laker’s neighbor says that Laker spends most of her time in her room quiet, sited doing nothing.
“When you try talking to her, she just stares at you and blinks without saying a word” Akullo adds.
This clearly shows that anything challenging is going to affect our mental and spiritual bodies as well as our physical bodies.
According to Sean Mayberry, the Founder and Executive Director of Strong Minds, an organization that works on mental health issues, mental health impacts of COVID-19 should not surprise anyone, more so to women.
“There is an urgent need to direct funding toward mental health services in sub-Saharan Africa”, she adds.
Strong-Minds recently did a survey with roughly 70% of the women and nearly a quarter of the women surveyed reported experiencing heightened mental distress due to recent world events, citing increased unemployment, food insecurity, household violence, and substance abuse stemming from the pandemic.
All the survey participants had previously received mental health services from Strong Minds, which teaches positive coping skills as part of its therapy program.
According to a report by Strong Minds, the survey results showed the increased need for broad-based mental health support and psycho-education to help individuals, families, and communities cope with difficulties during the pandemic and beyond.
As the pandemic wears on, it is likely the mental health burden will increase as measures taken to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, business and school closures, and shelter-in-place orders, lead to greater isolation and potential financial distress.
People are worried and worries can make you have mental health issues in their own way.
This pandemic on the other hand should provide a chance to address the imbalance in our health systems as healthy and empowered women can bring about the change needed to create a sustainable future for all. The care they receive must be integrated to achieve our goals of ending all preventable deaths by 2030.
We must Jointly work together to provide vital health interventions to everyone and to build back stronger and mentally healthy communities.