As Samoa braces for a further two weeks of lockdown in national efforts to curb the impacts of Covid-19, Head of the Mental Health Unit Seiulialii Dr George Tuitama gives important advice on how to maintain our mental health.
Dr Tuitama was being interviewed in a 5-minute vox pop on the Minstry’s Health of the Nation program, hosted by Faitau Darryl Laifai Pupi.
“Dont Panic is the first advise,” said Samoa’s only registered psychiatrist and leading Mental Health Specialist. “I know that’s easier said than done, but it leads us to the second message, which is, what can we do to avoid panic?”
Dr Tuitama says stress and panic is exasperated by worrying about our basic needs, especially if we have not taken the time to plan, and make sure our families have enough essential items such as food. “That seems to be one of the key things people are focused on, is food,” says Dr Tuitama. “So there is a rush to go out and buy food,” he said.
Dr Tuitama points out that in that rush, there is panic buying and people are stocking up much more than they need. This, in turn, places pressure on their budgets, which then creates another cause of stress.
Seiulialii notes that Government have shifted State of Emergency orders to allow regular periods of access to essential services, so people no longer have to stock up so much. “The advice from your Mental Health Unit is that there is no need to panic and overspend,” advises Dr Tuitama.
“You can now budget and properly plan all your purchases, to ensure you have what you need, and avoid over-shopping”.
Seiulialii highlights the harsh reality that many will lose their sources of income. With many being out of work because of the lockdown, or if they contract the virus, Dr Tuitama says preparedness for the realities of covid is the best way to overcome fear and panic.
Dr Tuitama says the second element that can help relieve unnecessary stress is preparedness at home. He says Covid-19 is now upon us, however, messages of self-preparedness have been the focus of many programmes such as those run by the Ministry of Agriculture for the past two years. “Going back on those messages, we can grow our own food in small gardens, and there are a lot of ideas to me self-sustaining at home.”
“You are not just stressing about the illness – you are stressing about how you’re going to look after yourself and how you’re going to look after your family at this time of lockdown..”
The final advice from Samoa’s long serving mental health specialist and psychiatrist, is prepare your own self. Dr Tuitama says it is important to mentally prepare for the worst. He advises that lockdown is a good time to spend quality time with family. He says covid-19 can result in being taken away for isolation, and once away from family, people often say how much they miss their families. They say they wished they’d hugged their children, or have one last chance do to something they hadn’t. Dr Tuitama says it is time to focus on those things that you’ve been meaning to do, or sort out within your home, with your spouse, your children or siblings. “Whatever that you’re planning to do then please DO IT NOW.”