New research from a poll led by a Dubai health clinic shows one in five people are more likely to seek support for mental health issues since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Mandeep Jassal, a behavioral therapist at the Priory Wellbeing center in Dubai, a “ray of light” from the COVID-19 pandemic is that it appears to have set in motion a transformation in people’s attitudes to mental health, with an increased acceptance about the importance of seeking help when problems arise.
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Jassal said the center conducted a poll in which around one in five respondents (18 percent) said they were now more likely to reach out for support, with one in ten stating they had sought mental health treatment for the first time in the wake of the pandemic.
While COVID-19 has undoubtedly left devastation in its wake, Jassal believes that one positive outcome has been a greater openness and understanding of mental health issues which can offer long-term benefits.
“The pandemic has caused much turmoil across the world, but it’s important that we also take the positives where we can find them,” says Jassal. “One of these is the fact that conversations about mental health have become much more commonplace – it is no longer an issue which is simply brushed under the carpet. As a result, people are also more likely to seek professional help.”
The results of the Priory’s survey flagged several concerns about the impact of the pandemic on mental health, with one in three (34 percent) saying it had been “the most stressful and anxiety-ridden period of their life.”
Around one in four (24 percent) said the state of their mental health had been exacerbated by fear of job loss, or fears about their finances because of a job already lost. Nearly half (49 percent) said stress and “feeling overwhelmed” during COVID-19 had made it difficult to do their job properly.
It is these challenges which have brought mental health issues to prominence and opened the door to a change in attitudes when it comes to seeking help, says Jassal.
One area in which the Priory Wellbeing Clinic Dubai has seen a marked upturn in people asking for support is relationship counseling, where there has been an 11 percent increase in those being treated since the start of the pandemic.
Jassal says it was inevitable that some relationships would be put under strain during the pandemic because of issues such as the increased proximity enforced on people during home-working restrictions.
Her views are backed by The Priory’s UK-based poll, which reveals that more than one in four people questioned (26 percent) think their relationship with their partner worsened over the period.
“The pandemic in effect removed the ability for many couples to maintain a healthy balance in life,” said Jassal. “When this happens, relations become strained, and can result in negative thinking such as ‘I can’t cope’ and ‘I am failing in this relationship’, which can lead to dysfunctional and repetitive behaviors such as snapping or avoiding certain conversations.”
“Couples have had to make major adjustments to their relationship, which for many has brought tensions to the surface in a heightened, often emotional way, with many worried about whether the damage was irreversible, and others just feeling a sense of rejection and worthlessness.”
In the Priory team’s experience over the last 12 months, the most prominent issues which have been a real test to a couple’s resilience and exacerbated disharmony have included: a lack of privacy and personal space; adjustment to a new pace and daily routine; work and financial stress; childcare issues; uneven split of household tasks, miscommunication and a general lack of quality interaction.
For some, previous routines had masked pre-existing problems and differences, which had nowhere to hide during the pandemic, said Jassal.
Jassal also said the pandemic has affected even the strongest of couples:
“Tackling the tensions is key and small adjustments can significantly ease friction and reverse the majority of issues.”
These, she said, can include introducing daily rituals, to provide a sense of balance and calm, scheduling time in the week for the more difficult and challenging topics, ensuring your own designated ‘zones’ in the home for work and relaxation to help provide a divide and to ensure work is not merged into the living/social areas.