Thirty-one-year-old Indian worker Mohammed Afia has constantly been worried ever since he began receiving half-pay from May, after his maintenance services firm was affected by the pandemic. He was unable to send enough money to his family back home and was completely stressed out.
Another panicking worker, a Cameroonian supervisor in a cleaning company, 27-year-old Adam Swamad said besides the fear of contracting the virus, many of his friends had lost jobs due to the pandemic and he was worried about his job too.
Both of them attended counselling sessions for workers and learned to overcome negative thoughts. While Afia has put his financial worries behind, Swamad has diverted his time to playing football and chatting with friends.
The mental health support initiative introduced at their labour accommodation is lifting the mood of workers, says Amaan Mpagi Baguma, Quality Health Safety and Environmental officer at Razeen workers’ city in Abu Dhabi. Mpagi and his team have received training in psychology and counseling to help the workers, giving them hope and telling them not to worry as things will soon get back to normal.
Aimed at the worker population, the Department of Community Development – Abu Dhabi (DCD) in collaboration with Abu Dhabi Emergency Crisis and Disasters Committee for Covid-19 Pandemic, had launched the ‘You Matter’ campaign last month, to promote the importance of protecting their mental health.
Designed in eight languages, the campaign aimed to reach thousands of workers in the residential complexes and neighbourhoods in which they live. “Many workers here have faced various problems since the pandemic started, including salary cuts, delayed pay and some have even lost jobs yet they have families back home to look after. Issues like anxiety and stress are common among many of the workers. But the mental health support services such counseling are helping the workers to stay positive,” said Mpagi.
Psychologists provided a package of positive messages and psychological advice to workers, urging them to strengthen communication with family and friends, develop hobbies or learn new skills, as well as express gratitude or start using simple techniques such as writing down thoughts and feelings to help rid them of stress and negative thoughts.
Hamad Ali Al Dhaheri, undersecretary of the DCD, said: “Based on the results of the questionnaires we conducted, a number of workshops and lectures in different languages related to mental health have been designed to reduce anxiety or enhance a sense of security to ensure an ideal and healthy environment primarily for providing mental health for workers.”
Workers in Abu Dhabi are urged to seek help if they feel sad, anxious or have any thoughts of self-harm, by contacting the hotline (800937292) to talk to trained responders who will provide solutions to address the challenges in scientific ways.