Home COVID-19 Mental Health among Young Women living with HIV in Uganda

Mental Health among Young Women living with HIV in Uganda

by Maurine Tukahirwa

If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught us is to attribute to humanity virtues- be kind to one another! Believe it or not humanity is being restored, at what cost- becomes a story for another day. A global pandemic caught us by surprise- where majority of us barely had time to prepare for it. Says one of the members of the #WhatGirlsWant Movement. Different categories of people are going through different unique challenges, but the most key and cross-cutting issue affecting Youth all over Africa happens to be Mental Well-being. The fact that many Young Girls – living with HIV weren’t mentally prepared for what was coming, decline in their performances couldn’t with no doubt go without being unnoticed. She added.

It’s one thing to worry about the UN-known (COVID-19) and another to actually experience its effects which range from severe poverty, Gender Based Violence, Domestic violence, total violation of human rights among others. It becomes worse when your pretty sure your immunity is low and whichever wind that sweeps is likely to take you with, that dear readers does not only torture your physical body but your mind becomes victim 1o1.

It should be noted that less than 1% of the Health sector budget is allocated to Mental Health in Uganda. This however doesn’t mean more young women aren’t being diagnosed with mental health issues like stress, anxiety, depression, drug addiction, bipolar, and this leaves communities with a big burden of awakening the spirit of activism (Obwanegamba) to support each other psycho-socially.  Truth is for sure, more virtual and physical rehabilitation structures for Adolescents and Young women living with HIV are needed.

With government’s less attention directed to mental health, the struggle now becomes,

“how do communities of people living with HIV get to keep a positive and healthy mind?”

Well here are a few tips on how one can manage their mental health:

Talk about it.       

This sounds cliché but it’s the most significant of them all. A problem shared is half solved… a proverb from the English man. Sometimes, all we need is someone to listen without interruption.

Limit the news and be careful what you read

Reading lots of news about corona-virus has led to panic attacks for Young Women Living with HIV and anxiety.

“When I’m feeling anxious my thoughts can spiral out of control and I start thinking about catastrophic outcomes,” says one of the members of the #WhatGirlsWant Movement.

“Usually when I suffer I can walk away from a situation. This is out of my control,” she adds..

Having long periods away from news websites and social media has helped to manage anxiety. Also find support helplines, run by mental health charities such as AnxietyUK, They can be helpful.

  • Limit the amount of time you spend reading or watching things which aren’t making you feel better. Perhaps decide on a specific time to check in with the news
  • There is a lot of misinformation swirling around – stay informed by sticking to trusted sources of information such as government and NHS websites

Have breaks from social media and mute things which are triggering

Alison, 24, from Uganda, has health anxiety and feels compelled to stay informed and research the subject. But at the same time she knows social media can be a trigger.

“A month ago I was clicking on hashtags and seeing all this unverified conspiracy rubbish and it would make me really anxious and I would feel really hopeless and cry,” she says.

Now she is careful about which accounts she tunes into and is avoiding clicking on corona-virus hashtags. She is also trying hard to have time away from social media, watching TV or reading books instead.

  • Mute key words which might be triggering on Twitter and unfollow or mute accounts
  • Mute Whats-app groups and hide Facebook posts and feeds if you find them too overwhelming

Stay connected with people

  • Staying in touch with those you care about will help to maintain good mental health during long periods of self-isolation.
  • “Agree regular check-in times and feel connected to the people around you,” says Nina.
  • Strike a balance between having a routine and making sure each day has some variety.
  • For some people it might end up actually feeling like quite a productive or restful period. You could work through your to-do list or read a book you’d been meaning to get to.
  • Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
  • Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
  • Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
  • Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
  • Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.

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