Give mental health priority in Covid war

Thursday July 15 2021
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After almost one and half years after Covid-19 was first reported in the country, fatigue is setting in. Many have lost their loved ones and buried them. But some couldn't even make it for the burial due to restrictions on social gathering.

Families have been separated since the beginning of the lockdown due to travel restrictions. While many had hoped for a better 2021, the situation appears to have remained the same or even gotten worse.

For many Rwandans, the pandemic has upended their lives. Some have not only had to deal with health issues during the pandemic but also lost sources of livelihood.

And now that we are facing another spike in infections which has forced the government to reimpose restrictions, many are struggling to cope. Life is much more difficult for families with coronavirus patients. For one thing, it is difficult to self-isolate in a home with limited space.

Concern is rising over home-based care as more patients who are asymptotic or with less severe symptoms are advised to receive treatment from home.

Unfortunately, many families are caught off guard. As a result, many struggle to adjust to the Ministry of Health guidelines. Worse still, self-isolation at home also creates more than a physical challenge. It creates anxiety inside the home and sometimes depression as families struggle to cope.


For instance, many children struggle to understand and cope with the drastic measures. They cannot understand why suddenly; they may not be able to interact with a sick parent. Some children throw tantrums, refuse to eat until they see their parents. Managing such a situation requires professional help.

Therefore, it is increasingly becoming important to avail counselling services to families that are affected to help them cope. And more important, is to publicise and create awareness about the Ministry of Health home based care guidelines which were published last year. Awareness would help reduce anxiety and reassure families who in most cases are not sure of what to do when they have a coronavirus patient. There is a need for mental health intervention plan, where through counselling family members and patients can be attended to.

Just like physical conditions are attended to, mental health should also be given priority. Mental health problems can cause more damage because they are often on the inside. Of particular importance is providing care to families that have lost their loved ones.

The government needs to evaluate how home-based care has been implemented to bridge the gaps and improve outcomes for patients and their families. We need a comprehensive approach that addresses need of the most vulnerable in our community whose conditions may be affected due to the ongoing pandemic.

There is no doubt that the recent spike in cases is straining an already stretched healthcare system. However, to be able to avert another health crisis, the government must ensure that the response to the pandemic takes a long term view by addressing issues that could potentially grow into another pandemic. Stay Home! Stay Safe!