The Financial Express

Mental health: Experts warn of overusing gadgets

Published: May 14, 2020 12:03:25 | Updated: May 14, 2020 14:14:34

A representational image. — Courtesy Photo via UNB A representational image. — Courtesy Photo via UNB

People holed up at their homes for weeks during the general holiday meant to prevent the spread of coronavirus are exposed to mental health issues because of their over-dependence on gadgets and electronic devices, experts say, UNB reports.

Since mental pressure can lead to various ailments, health experts have suggested introducing tele-counselling services during this pandemic. 

Bangladesh announced general holidays in late March, shutting down all non-essential services and public transports. The holiday was later extended to May 16. Last month, the health authorities declared the whole country vulnerable to infection and imposed heavy restrictions on movement.

But the government eventually started to gradually lift the restrictions and allowed shops and shopping malls to remain open ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr.

People are being requested not to come out unless it is an emergency case. During this time of social isolation, people are exposed to a number of health risks, as the American Psychological Association notes.

Feeling isolated can lead to poor sleep, poor cardiovascular health, lower immunity, depressive symptoms, and impaired executive function, it said.

According to an article published in medical journal The Lancet, psychological distress is common both during and after quarantine. People commonly experience – fear, sadness, numbness, insomnia, confusion, anger, post-traumatic stress symptoms, depressive symptoms, low mood, stress, emotional disturbance, irritability and emotional exhaustion.

‘Read more for better mental health’

Prof Noor Muhammad, Chairman of Psychology at Jagannath University, said overusing electronic devices raises mental and health risks to a greater degree.

“Reading more negative news during quarantine will have a negative impact on people. Mental pressure will increase health risk and trigger various ailments and long-time psychological complications,” he said.

Noor Muhammad recommended reading more books and using electronic devices as little as possible. “The government can introduce tele-counselling services by specialists during this pandemic,” he said.

Professor Dr Md Kamal Uddin of Dhaka University’s psychology department said people are now spending time with their mobiles, computers and televisions. “Overuse of these items could increase mental and health risks,” he added.

“We should study more and pay more attention to our families,” he said.  

Rahima Akter, a lecturer of Pharmacy at World University of Bangladesh, said mental health and domestic violence risks have increased during quarantined life.

“Particularly, the young generation uses devices at least 6-7 hours daily while at home. Overusing the accessories creates pressure on the brain that raises mental and physical health risks,” she said.

ENT specialist of Manikganj Sadar Hospital Dr Khairul Bashar said being in quarantine or cut off from the rest of the community for a long time usually has a detrimental impact on psychological well-being where issues such as stress, anxiety, irritation, depressive symptoms, emotional exhaustion and confusion have amplified effects.

“Along with disrupting productivity and workflow, these problems can have a long-term effect on our general health. That is why it’s vital to take care of mental health during quarantine period,” he added.

Strengthening family bond

Dr Khairul suggested being aware while dealing with major psychological issues during a prolonged quarantine. It’s necessary to take care of mental health to avoid symptoms of depression and focus on positive things, he added.

He recommended doing deep breathing exercises, meditation, and muscular testing and stretching, which can relieve stress in a few minutes.

“Detachment from normal activities pushes children into a state of crisis that may increase the risk of psychiatric disorders that can lead to acute stress disorder, adjustment disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit disorder,” he added.

Khairul said home confinement during a disease outbreak might also have negative impact on children's physical and mental health.

“Good parenting skills become particularly crucial when children are confined at home. Home confinement could offer a good opportunity to enhance the interaction between parents and children, involve children in family activities, and improve their self-sufficiency skills. With the right parenting approaches, family bonds can be strengthened, and child psychological needs met,” he added.

Vice-Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Prof Kanak Kanti Barua told the news agency that there are both negative and positive sides of this quarantine.

“We’ve to use modern technologies as per requirements. Particularly, we all use mobile phones and computers all the time at home and offices. But, we’ve to avoid overusing these. Because, overusing of anything is not good. It increases mental health risks. We’ve to pass time with family members to recover from the pressure,” he said.

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