Tingly hands…crampy stomach…blurred vision…these were my waking feelings on Friday, February 28, 2020 when I woke to the news of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Lagos State, Nigeria. These feelings were not unconnected with the overload of information both real and fake about the harm COVID-19 has caused in several countries globally…..The death toll is staggering!

The following week, I was filled with anxiety and worry for friends, family, vulnerable populations….and yes, worry for myself. No thanks to the myriad of information- authentic, fake and sensationalized on death toll, cure and preventive measures on social media and news channels.

Thanks to the #Takeresponsibility communication campaign launched by the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control which made me understand that everyone has a huge role to play in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the globe. This understanding was coupled with my conviction that communication and messages disseminated during the course of the pandemic can greatly influence public knowledge, mental health and public health outcomes during the pandemic. Yes…. stopping the virus begins with the messages people are; exposed to i.e. media content people read, see, hear and watch; pay attention to; retain in their minds and act on.

Hence, I decided to;

  • Pay attention to only official sources of information if I must get information. I try to isolate myself from sensationalized news about the virus. All accounts or hashtags that cause me to feel anxious have been muted or unfollowed. This helps to strengthen my mental health.
  • Deactivate my information sharing mode and if I must share information, it must only be facts and not fear. Facts are obtainable from official sources of information during the pandemic. These official sources are websites and official social media accounts of: The World Health Organization, The Nigerian Centres for Disease Control, Federal and State Ministries of Health in Nigeria.
  • Communicate in a manner that is appropriate, accurate, and sensitive.
  • Provide safety tips from official sources.
  • Provide information on economic relief mechanisms from official sources such as the food markets created by the Lagos State Government in schools in strategic locations in Lagos State. This is a measure help the elderly and vulnerable in the society. It will also curb panic buying, prevent hoarding of food and essential goods and prevent price inflation of food and essential commodities. Sharing this information can prevent mental stress which some people may develop with the thought of scarcity of food and essentials and the need to panic-buy.
  • Protect myself from false information which more often than not communicate myths about COVID-19, undermine medical advice, proffer fake cures and incite panic.
  • Overcome the temptation to send chain mails to prevent myself and people from slipping into depression. Mental health experts advice that positive moods help protect the immune system, while negative thoughts have been shown to depress the  immune system and make it weak against viruses.

These decisions were almost threatened by The Stay at Home and Social Distancing directives enforced by the Federal and Lagos State Governments on March 26, 2020 due to the feelings of loneliness, boredom and fear that seem to accompany it. Here’s how I have being able to manage the stay at home directive from getting in the way of my decision to communicate without inciting panic and ensure my mental health is optimal.

  • I stay entertained by watching comedy skits, comic movies and listening to music at a pleasant volume.
  • I stay focused by discussing future plans with friends and family. You can do this online if you live alone. This assures you that the pandemic will pass and future plans will be achieved.
  • I stay in touch regularly with ‘socially distanced’ friends, colleagues and family through social media, e-mail or phone calls.
  • I stay productive by creating a work schedule, and setting up a good workspace in the home. I also ensure my virtual workspace is optimal by testing my virtual meeting tools before meeting times and giving daily updates to my supervisor. This is the best time to take the online courses that can make me better on my job. Ultimately, I track my daily achievements
  • I stay Immune by getting enough rest, eating balanced diet, exercising and stocking my home with adequate food and essential drugs…No panic buying
  • I stay safe by maintaining discipline in the home on handwashing. You can put up a sign or alarm for everyone in the house for hand washing time. Sing songs during this handwashing to make it more fun. I only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work, to stay two meters (six feet) away from other people and wash my hands as soon as I get home.

Thanks to these tips, I focus better on staying safe by heeding the advice of public health experts so that the infection curve in Nigeria can be flattened and yes… the tips make me productive from my virtual workspace. My name is Oluwatobiloba Akerele and this is my #COVID19panicstory.

EHAI team and the world will love to read your #COVID19panicstory. Simply share in the comment section or on your social media pages and tag @ehainigeriaorg on Twitter and Instagram as well as Equitable Health Access Initiative on Facebook and LinkedIn. You are sure to get a retweet and a repost on EHAI’s official social media accounts. Communicate right to stop Corona virus from spreading.

Stay Safe and Stay well.

This article was developed by Oluwatobiloba Akerele, Communications and Corporate Social Engagement Officer, Equitable Health Access Initiative (EHAI) drawing from the reference below:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/looking-after-your-mental-health-during-coronavirus-outbreak

For more insightful contents from Oluwatobiloba Akerele, watch this space.

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