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WCM-Q Dean gives webinar on impact of physical distancing on mental health

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q, gave a webinar discussing practical measures to safeguard mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Dean of WCM-Q, gave a webinar discussing practical measures to safeguard mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Javaid Sheikh, Professor of Psychiatry and Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q), gave a live webinar on ways to minimize physical contact but maximize social contact during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Sheikh, who is an internationally renowned researcher and clinician-scientist in the field of anxiety disorders, spoke about the historical origin of physical distancing measures during pandemics, the potential impact of social distancing on mental health and wellbeing, and practical ways to prevent or mitigate these effects through deliberate social contact, particularly by utilizing modern communications technologies.

In the webinar, which was titled ‘A Tale of Two Distances: Promoting Physical but Minimizing Social Distance During the COVID-19 Pandemic’, Dr. Sheikh stressed the importance of maintaining a hopeful attitude, developing personal resilience, consciously practicing self-care, surrounding oneself with optimistic people, and taking part in activities that help relieve stress and encourage social engagement with others. He also said that healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough sleep, taking plenty of physical exercise and eating a healthy diet all help to promote good mental health. The webinar was the latest in a series of Covid-19 themed online sessions organized by WCM-Q’s division of Continuing Professional Development.

Dr. Sheikh, who also holds the position of Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at WCM-Q, said: “Social isolation is a major causal factor in an observable rise in anxiety and depression, particularly among young adults, but other groups are also at risk, especially the elderly, the unemployed and people with long-term illness. It is therefore extremely important during the Covid-19 pandemic to take advantage of modern communications technologies to maintain social connectedness by using video chat apps to speak to family, play games with friends online, organize game or quiz nights or even doing group exercise sessions or virtual yoga sessions.

“Anything that allows you to socially connect with people in a positive and fun atmosphere will be of enormous benefit.”

Dr. Sheikh also recommended that younger family members could empower elderly friends or relatives stay socially connected by visiting them to help set up laptops or other communications devices, providing they maintain appropriate physical distancing and wear the correct PPE while doing so. Young children would also benefit from their parents arranging online playdates for them and allowing them to see other children while observing physical distancing guidelines, he added.

The webinar was accredited locally by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (QCHP-AD) and internationally by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).

Dr. Sheikh said social isolation is major causal factor in a rise of anxiety and depression during the coronavirus pandemic.