President emphasizes the need to tackle COVID-19 impact on mental health
President of Malta George Vella emphasised the importance of encouraging those who are finding it difficult to cope with the circumstances brought about by COVID-19 not to contain their worries but to open up, share their feelings with others, and be ready to accept advice and possibly treatment for their resultant mental condition.
“This is nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing to hide. Nothing that should make one feel inferior. We are all different and we all have different mental carrying capacities and different breaking points. Keeping these difficulties to ourselves is no option. Early, qualified, professional attention, guidance and advice is of paramount importance to avoid further deterioration”, the President told the Richmond Foundation’s Annual Conference, which was held online and explored the mental health impact of social and economic measures on different groups in Malta.
The President pointed out that it is still too early to discuss what impact COVID-19 will have on the people’s mental health. Besides, comparisons with what is happening abroad also do not hold, as each country has its own realities. Even so, there are lessons to be learnt, as well as pitfalls to be avoided.
“As of today, I feel that the mental health damage done to the population by this virus is already appreciable… In varying degrees, I dare say, all members of the public have been affected by this pandemic. In the eight-month period during which this virus has been playing havoc in our midst, it has affected our way of life, our customs, our economy, and our cherished family traditions,” President Vella said. “There is no section of the population that has not been affected, directly or indirectly, to the extent of generating worries, fears, anxiety, tension, phobias, depression, and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.”
While commending the health authorities for their guidance through best practices and continuous exhortations to keep infection from spreading further, the President also voiced his appreciation for all those who follow instructions and are thus contributing to the collective effort of limiting the spread. He cautioned those who are neglecting taking the necessary precautionary measures as a result of carelessness, COVID-19 fatigue, or other factors.
He also praised the frontliners, pointing out that it is not the physical aspect of their work which is the most difficult, but their putting up with looking death in the face and doing all that medical science has made available to bring back those who get too near the jaws of death.
“Our ultimate hope rests with the availability, hopefully in the not too distant future, of an effective and tested vaccine that elicits long term immunity. This could be months away,” said the President. “At least there is this hope on the horizon. We have to hold out for these coming months and remain positive.”