Mental health care services are vital to the COVID-19 response

21 May 2020

Mental health care services are vital to the COVID-19 response

Meet Şerif, a university lecturer, clinical psychologist and mother to a young son.

Şerif spoke to UNFICYP about the blurring boundaries of work and home life during the pandemic. As a new mother, she had initially welcomed the chance to spend extra time with her son, however the increased responsibilities at work and home have proved enormously challenging.

As the movement restrictions were enacted, it was a steep learning curve for her – and the entire university- to shift their teaching curriculum online and become comfortable with the new reality they were facing. She spoke to the increased support she has been giving her students, some of whom are struggling with emotional, technical or financial issues in light of the pandemic.

Şerif is a clinical psychologist, and in addition to teaching she believed that volunteering as a clinical psychologist is an ethical responsibility during the current health crisis, so, in addition to regular clients, she has been offering free psychological support to those most in need. While it can be exhausting, she is committed to helping her fellow Cypriots during these challenging times.

Şerif is mindful of maintaining her mental health through the outbreak. For her, it is important to focus on problems that can be solved without dwelling on the many limitations she faces. She says this helps her to eliminating unhelpful thoughts and feelings. Practicing mindfulness and staying in the moment, and time with her family has kept her positive. When she feels anxious, she takes on new tasks- including translating children’s books. Despite all the difficulties, being able to stay home with my family is a relief for Şerif and cooperating with her colleagues and volunteering as a clinical psychologist has been empowering for her.

Şerif highlights that the needs of men and women are not given the same importance in Cypriot society. Women have been struggling with increased workload both in the family and at work. You are expected to keep up with your work load regardless of the challenges. But the system does not take into account that your responsibilities at home have also increased as a result of the outbreak.

Looking to the future, Şerif wants to see progress in advancing gender equality – at home, work, and in public spaces- for all women, with or without children. Women have the right to determine their lives and we must create a system where this is more actively discussed. Many women, and even many women who are aware of gender inequality, may feel incomplete and guilty if they fail to fulfill their socially constructed roles. We need to let women decide freely about their own body, roles and choices.

Mental health services are an essential part of all government responses to COVID-19. They must be expanded and fully funded. Policies must support and care for those affected by mental health conditions, and protect their human rights and dignity.