The Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), has warned that fake news on COVID-19 pandemic could cause significant emotional distress to Nigerians and increase the rate of mental health problems in the country.
Dr Taiwo Sheikh, National President, APN, made this known on Tuesday in a statement, stating that the pandemic was a stressful period with many Nigerians harbouring the fear of being infected, losing loved ones or dying.
He said, “The Association notes the impact of the novel Coronavirus Infection (COVID-19) as it presents new and unique challenges.
“The COVID-19 pandemic as a global crisis has also affected Nigerians in various ways ranging from lifestyle changes, enforced shutdowns, economic losses, family dislocations and separations.
“Unfortunately, the situation is compounded by fake news, alarming reports and stories as well as videos, and pervasive media coverage that is causing significant emotional distress to many people.
“All of the above results in a situation where individuals who are vulnerable may develop mental health problems; while those with existing mental health challenges may experience the worsening of their symptoms.
“Thus, people may suffer in many ways without actually contracting the Covid-19 virus.
“There are anxieties and feelings of helplessness over the loss of control around our personal lives, with additional uncertainties over how long this situation will last and when it will be over.
“All these impact those without and with existing mental health issues”.
He gave some of the adverse psychological and behavioural responses to be sleep disturbances, reduced feelings of safety, increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other psychoactive substances.
He said other behavioural responses were physical complaints, such as lack of energy and general aches and pains, and high use of medical resources.
He urged Nigerians to manage their media and information intake by getting factual information from NCDC and Ministry of Health approved sites to help them take reasonable precautions.
He also urged Nigerians to observe preventive instructions, to also remain calm and control their anxiety to avoid prolonged stress that could have a negative effect on their immunity. (NAN)