We asked Dr Peter Chiu about 2020 and why men should be aware of their mental health.
Q. Are you seeing more mental health issues in men this year?
Yes. In general, more patients have been seeking help for mental health issues amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Q. What are the key drivers?
We are facing unprecedented times with lots of changes and uncertainties in nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Spending long hours at home, reducing contact and keeping a safe distance from others, coupled with the constant fear and anxiety about a new disease can take an emotional toll.
Most of my patients are far away from their home countries. Worrying about the wellbeing of their family and friends at home and not being able to be close to them due to the current travel restrictions can cause strong emotions.
For some, the pandemic has not only affected their physical and mental health, but also their financial health. It is normal to feel anxious and experience increased stress during these challenging times.
Q. What can men do to protect their mental health?
- Speak up, stay connected
Talking about psychological problems is usually seen as a sign of weakness. It is not. By speaking up, you take charge of the wellbeing of your mental health. Being able to open up about your feelings and worries can help prevent you from developing problematic symptoms. Keep regular contact with people close to you either through phone calls, messaging or social media. Many a times, just being listened to can provide the feeling of support and the help you need.
- Have a routine, eat well, keep active
Stick to your daily routines, or make new ones. Maintaining a healthy diet is important for your physical health as well as for your mental health. Avoid using alcohol as a way of dealing with your psychological issues. Regular exercise can also make you feel better and help improve your concentration and sleep.
- Limit your exposure to news-feeds
Moderate your consumption of news that may heighten your anxiety. Limit it to once a day or to specific times of the day.
Q. What are the warning signs that someone may need help?
- Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety
- Long-lasting sadness or irritability
- Extreme changes in moods
- Social withdrawal
- Confused thinking
- Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Strong feelings of anger
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities
- Suicidal thoughts
- Substance abuse
Q. When should someone seek assistance? How can a doctor help?
No one is immune to mental health issues. If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, ask for help early. Talk to your family, friends or doctor.
As family doctors, we are often the first person involved in the assessment and management of patients with mental health issues. A physical health check may be conducted to rule out any physical illness. Depending on the type of mental health problem the individual is suffering from, we can provide treatment or may refer the patient to other services if necessary. We will work with the patient to help them learn ways to regain and maintain a good mental health.