Published: May 20th 2020

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Public Health

Event Summary - 'The Mental Health Overview: Exploring the Psychosocial Impact of COVID-19'

Published: May 20th 2020

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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Introduction

On Tuesday 19th May, Bobab and Medixus teamed up again to deliver the second webinar in the COVID-19 Exchange, a series of events dedicated to exploring challenges, sharing learnings and promoting best practice in the fight against COVID-19. Chaired by Lord Paul Boateng, we’ve been bringing together a diverse range of experts from across Africa and around the world to share their experiences and expertise.  

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, this second webinar focused on exploring the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on both patients and medics. We enjoyed some fascinating insights from a great lineup of speakers including:

  • Tarisai Bere - Clinical Psychologist, Global Health Mental Specialist & Behavioural Science Lecturer (Zimbabwe)
  • Dr. Nick Bass - Psychiatrist & Director of Global Health, East London NHS Foundation Trust (UK)
  • Dr. Linda Nyamute - Practicing Consultant Psychiatrist & Mental Health Advocate (Kenya)
  • Bright Shitemi - Founder/CEO, Mental 360 (Kenya)
  • Victor Ugo - Founder, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (Nigeria)

Event Overview

Lord Paul Boateng introduced the session, first laying out some of the contextual challenges surrounding mental health care in Africa, including that there are just 1.4 mental health workers per 100,000 members of the population in Africa, compared to a global average of 9 per 100,000. 

Tarisai Bere opened the discussion, presenting on behalf of the Mental Health Task Force in Zimbabwe. She provided a number of fascinating insights around the compounding effects of COVID-19 in an already challenging national context where there is a high prevalence of existing affective disorders, particularly amongst young people living in rural communities. 

Dr. Nick Bass followed by Tarisai with an interesting overview of the network of global health partnerships he coordinates in countries such as Uganda, Somaliland, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Kenya. He too highlighted some of the unique challenges Africa faces, including by vulnerable refugee communities. Nick was also keen to stress some of the positives outcomes COVID-19 has necessitated, including distance support and shared learning using digital platforms such as Zoom.

Next up, Dr. Linda Nyamute provided a thorough overview of the Kenya context, both in terms of COVID-19 and the mental health care capacity. She explained how lockdown and associated travel restrictions have made it difficult for patients to travel to cities like Nairobi where they can more easily seek help. The stigma attached to COVID-19 and the fear of catching the virus at hospital is another reason people are staying away from hospital.

We were also lucky to hear from Bright Shitemi about the great work his organisation, Mental 360, is doing on the ground in Kenya. Bright echoed some of the observations made by the other speakers, including that they have observed an increase in suicide ideation and attempts, as well as increased instances of sexual and gender based violence. Bright also highlighted challenges experienced by medics, including burnout, increased stress and anxiety associated with worries around a lack of PPE, depression and PTSD.

And finally, we heard from Victor Ugo, founder of the Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI). He spoke of the lack of integration and recognition of mental health in the conversation around COVID-19 in Nigeria. He outlined the amazing work MANI is doing to counteract this, including training an additional 300 community volunteers to support their crisis system, enabling them to respond to a more than 70% increase in people trying to access their services since the outbreak began. 

The speaker's presentation can be viewed in full here:

The full recording of the webinar can be found here. Please feel free to share with anyone you feel will benefit.

The next webinar in the series will take place on Tuesday 26th May at 1.00pm BST (2.00pm CET / 3.00pm EAT). Click on the link below to register to attend: 

Event 3

 Tue 26th May: 1.00pm - 2.30pm (BST)

Business Unusual: Ensuring Continuity of Care With Remote Working

Event 4

 Tue 2nd June: 1.00pm - 2.30pm (BST)

Pandemics and Premiums: Financing COVID-19 Treatment and Recovery

And don’t forget, if you or your organisation is currently delivering a project, programme or initiative related to tackling COVID-19, you can upload your work directly onto our interactive projects map - it’s a great way to spread the word and promote what you’re doing to the global Bobab community.

Also, if you are interested in publishing an opinion piece, blog or interview related to COVID-19, we’d love to hear from you. Contact Nick Staite: nick[at]bobab.org.