Rising out of the pandemic by addressing psychosocial trauma

Posted June 5, 2021

Mustafa, an electrical engineer being the sole earner in a family of six, was accustomed to working hard to financially support his family. However, this quickly changed when Mustafa was infected by COVID-19 and his community went into lockdown to try and curb the spread of the virus. As a result of his illness, Mustafa became immensely anxious, worried he would be responsible for infecting his family. His anxiety was compounded by the isolation caused by lockdown, and by financial issues. As a COVID-19 patient, Mustafa had to abstain from going to work, while his salary release was on a halt.

Mustafa’s mental health began deteriorating. The pressure that he would not be able to meet the needs of his household was immense. Before the pandemic, he had been successfully managing his mental health despite being diagnosed with a bipolar disorder. Feeling isolated and constantly living in a fearful state, the lockdown and COVID-19 situation triggered his mental health.

While watching television one day, Mustafa found out about the 'Helpline 1093', an initiative of the local government department Sindh in collaboration with UNDP, providing psychosocial support to the general population. He soon got connected with a psychologist.

"I am so grateful for this initiative that the local government has taken. I desperately wanted to talk to a mental health expert because I was unable to cope with the current situation" Mustafa said to his psychologist.

This helpline initiative focused on supporting the most vulnerable sections of the society by creating a support structure and referral mechanism managed by a trained psychologist. By embedding the support to the government department, the project supported telephone based psychosocial support to the victims of Gender based Violence (GBV) and COVID affected communities through dedicated Helplines and the Virtual Call Center in Sindh.

He recounted that, “At the point when lockdown started, everything felt strange. The threat of Coronavirus had been building throughout the weeks, and apart from washing my hands excessively, I did not think it would get as bad as it did. It got worse as I tested positive for COVID-19”. He was unable to think of a single positive thing and felt as if he was drowning.

Through the helpline, Mr. Mustafa was provided with psychosocial support, tailored to his specific needs. He accessed a total of eight psychotherapy/tele-counseling sessions over the phone. The therapy sessions helped him change his perspective on the current situation and he was able to focus on the positive side of events. It also boosted his self-esteem and made an impact on his professional and personal life.