Coronavirus pandemic also taking a toll on Filipino frontliners' mental, emotional health

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'Actually, more than the physical stress, it's more of the emotional and psychological stress that really hurts us frontliners,' a doctor tells CNN Philippines (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 8)— Dr. Edgar Jolly Santos, one of the country's health workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic, has worked 12 hours a day since the outbreak of the infectious disease started.

Santos, an emergency medicine doctor at the St. Luke's Medical Center, has not seen his family for almost month as he continues to man the frontlines.

While the long shifts may eventually take a toll on one's physical status, Santos said it is the mental stress that gravely affects him and his fellow health care workers.

"Actually, more than the physical stress, it's more of the emotional and psychological stress that really hurts us frontliners," Santos told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday.

People (and netizens) all over the world— including work-from-home employees, COVID patients, and healthworkers— have expressed anxiety and fears as the fate of the pandemic remains unknown.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also revealed that some COVID-19 health care workers in China— the ground zero of the virus outbreak— have reported symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress.

The World Health Organization said it is "normal" for healthcare workers to feel such emotions given the current situation.

"Managing your mental health and psycho-social well-being during this time is as important as managing your physical health," WHO said in an advisory last March.

READ: How to keep coronavirus fears from affecting your mental health

Despite this, the battle goes on for the frontliners. The coping mechanisms may differ— with some leaning on social media and entertainment applications to boost their spirits.

Santos said he gets by with some help from his family and friends.

"During my days off, I rest, I talk to my family, my friends, just to keep me boosted for the next day," Santos said.

Taking care of your mental health in the time of COVID-19

Some mental health and psychological organizations have earlier set recommendations for people— including health workers— whose mental welfare may be affected amid the disease pandemic.

The WHO advised citizens to seek information from trusted sources, and to minimize watching or reading reports that make them feel anxious or distressed. It also urged people to express support for each other and to maintain communication throughout the process.

The Psychological Association of the Philippines also advised Filipinos to limit social media usage, adopt a regular routine, and take breaks once in a while.

The University of Santo Tomas is also offering free mental health services for COVID-19 frontliners and other persons involved in the Luzon-wide quarantine. 

For the list of other online consultations and mental health services for Filipinos during the lockdown, click here.