The stressful life condition experienced by the individual and family members during an illness like Covid-19 cannot be overemphasized. Prolonged stress experienced during this pandemic can lead to frustration, anger, hopelessness, anxiety, fear of death, depression, insomnia, discomfort, fear of the hospital environment or isolation centre, persistent fear of inability to cope, profound sadness, despair and grief. The person with the illness condition is not the only one affected by the psychosocial stressors but family members inclusive, hence the need for all hands to be on deck for effective management of this condition through the use of medication and psychological intervention.
The symptoms of corona virus disease could include: Pneumonia, Fever, Dry Cough, Sore throat, headaches, and shortness of breath and loss of smell. In severe cases, it could lead to difficulty in breathing and death can occur if not properly treated. Sickle cell disorder is a blood disorder that might experience a very high risk in the development of Covid-19 symptoms based on the reality of their immune system. The stronger the immune system of a sickle cell patient the better for them to live adequately with Covid-19 disease condition.
Psychologists employ psychological treatment modalities to educate and treat patients with Covid-19 who experience psychological stressors as a result of the condition.
Psychological intervention can eliminate physical symptoms and improve the mental health of patients. Clinical reports have shown that patients that are quarantined experience all forms of psychological symptoms like panic attack, anxiety, depression, boredom, stigmatization, mental discomfort, fear of infection, sleep problem and other psycho-social stressors. These individuals must be helped re-integrate into society for optimal functioning.
It is important to note that currently there is no vaccine for the management of Covid-19 hence the need for sickle cell patient and their family members to adhered to the preventive measure stipulated by the Federal Ministry of Health through Nigerian Centre For Disease Control (NCDC). Although several clinical trials have been put in place to ascertain the efficacy of tested vaccines for the management of Covid-19, a lot of clinical trials are still ongoing both in Nigeria and in the world over to come up with appropriate goal standard vaccines that will take care of a cure for Covid-19.
Symptomatic treatment supportive cares are considered as goal standard for now while psychological intervention is being considered as adjuvant therapy to provide psychological services for Covid-19 patients. For effective management of Covid-19 among people living with sickle cell disorder, the need to focus on physical and mental health must be taken seriously, for example, patient should take their routine drug as prescribed by the medical expert, improve on the management of any medical condition, regular exercise, eating healthy diet, adhere to the dos and don’ts of the disease condition.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy could also play a significant role in the management of Covid-19 where patients are psycho-educated on the technique that can offer patient self help strategies to help deal with the new realities and changed expectations. Psycho-education over the phone about Covid-19 sign and symptoms will also play a significant role.
Dr. Suleiman Folorunsho is Deputy Director, Clinical Psychologist, Dept of Psychiatry, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Nigeria