Dr Javaid Sheikh, Professor of Psychiatry and Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q), recently gave a live webinar on ways to minimise physical contact but maximise 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 well-being, and practical ways to prevent or mitigate these effects through deliberate social contact, particularly by utilising modern communications technologies.

In the webinar 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.

WCM-Q Webinar on Mental Health 1

He said that healthy lifestyle habits such as getting enough sleep, taking plenty of physical exercise and eating a healthy diet will help promote good mental health. The webinar was the latest in a series of COVID-19 themed online sessions organised by the WCM-Q division of Continuing Professional Development.

WCM-Q Webinar on Mental Health 2According to Dr Sheikh, who is also the Professor of Healthcare Policy and Research at WCM-Q, 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.

He said that it is extremely important during the COVID-19 pandemic to take advantage of modern communications technologies to maintain social connectedness using video chat apps to speak to family, play games with friends online, organise game or quiz nights or even do 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 to 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.

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

For more information about WCM-Q, visit qatar-weill.cornell.edu