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Experts call for attention on COVID anxiety, treatment

By WANG XIAOYU | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-02 08:41
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Putting down the mobile phone, talking about negative feelings with friends or seeking professional counseling are some of the methods helpful in tackling depression and anxiety during a COVID-19 outbreak, experts said.

As the virus continues to circulate and lockdowns trigger mental stress, experts have called for greater investment in mental health services nationwide.

The World Health Organization said in March that the prevalence of anxiety and depression around the world increased by 25 percent in the first year of the pandemic alone.

Lu Lin, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and president of Peking University Sixth Hospital, said at a forum last month that China is no exception to the global trend.

From March 2020 to March 2021, the prevalence of depression and insomnia in China had risen, and repeated COVID-19 outbreaks, quarantine requirements and the high risk of exposure to the virus could all contribute to worsening people's mental conditions, according to data shared by Lu during the event.

In an interview with People's Daily, Lu said that misinformation circulated online had also magnified people's sense of panic.

The public should pay closer attention to information released by authoritative outlets, he suggested. People should also reduce the amount of time they spend in front of screens and instead chat with friends or family, listen to music or exercise to relax.

"It is normal to experience emotional swings or uncomfortable feelings, such as insomnia, lack of appetite, memory loss and being easily agitated, during this time," he said.

"Most of these conditions can be assuaged by self-adjustment," Lu said. "If necessary, it is suggested to seek online psychological consultation by dialing hotlines published by government departments and hospitals or visiting mental health clinics."

Xi Yingjun, from the Beijing Anding Hospital affiliated to Capital Medical University, said that since the start of the pandemic, the number of people reporting mental health issues had significantly increased.

"As the pandemic and resulting difficulties in people's lives exert a negative influence on mental health, governments should survey people, evaluate the practical needs of the public and formulate policies to address their concerns accordingly," he said.

Social organizations can be mobilized to provide assistance for those in need, such as helping them buy groceries and medicines, Xi said. Some mental health clinics have also been advised by Xi to launch hotlines and guide individuals in need to seek help.

Authorities have ramped up mental health services in parallel with the fight against the disease.

According to the three guidelines released by the National Health Commission on Nov 19, officials are required to relay the numbers of psychological assistance hotlines to residents in high-risk areas, as well as people undergoing home quarantine or health monitoring, so as to help relieve their anxiety and prevent incidents.

When they are found to experience mental issues, community workers should introduce them to mental health institutions promptly.

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