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Doha Dad Talks: Overcoming Mental Health Challenges During Lockdown

by Jiji John Ettiyam Parampil

By the second half of March, Covid-19 had spread worldwide and brought forth many challenges along with fears about my family’s future. I had a child studying medicine in Europe, another studying here at Qatar University, and a wife who was busy with our household. A week into the outbreak in Qatar, when online classes were implemented, I felt some relief when it came to my children’s education. But during this time, many businesses were also facing an economic crisis. This created a huge range of challenges that cast doubt on their future opportunities, and this had affected me mentally.

As a manager of a private firm, the economic situation caused by Covid-19 led to a chaotic, pressure-filled environment where many compromises had to be made between management and employees. Due to the uncertainty of the future of the business, I also had to knock on several doors to try to lower the rent for both my home and my office. Business instability, along with worries related to my family’s future and my children’s further education, had brought great turmoil in me.

The lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic had also been challenging. For instance, I had always depended on other family members to take care of the shopping, so adjusting to doing it myself was hard at first. Plus, when the government had imposed restrictions on social gatherings like family outings, visiting friends, and other get-togethers, I thought that my happiness would come to an end. Additionally, all the information and updates about the virus from media outlets had also impacted my mental health.

I found myself increasingly concerned about my relatives working in the medical sector and the people hospitalised due to the virus, as well as the then increasing number of deaths. The restrictions on international flights was also another blow. This is because the chances of seeing my daughter, who was studying abroad, or visiting my elderly parents and relatives living in my homeland were nearly impossible. All of these factors got me frustrated.

But as days the passed by, I decided that I had to adapt to this unusual lifestyle. I learnt that this pandemic presented an utterly unique opportunity for fathers to say “yes” to their fatherhood and choose to participate more actively in their family’s life. Personally, I had more time for family prayers, eating family meals at set times, gardening, exercising, and strengthening relations with family and friends through phone calls and FaceTime. This was a vast difference from my previous schedule where I was too busy for all of that.

At the office, we also implemented new strategies to overcome our financial difficulties. And despite the pandemic causing several issues for people, by God’s grace, I’ve also been able to try to help some of them financially.

After spending years worrying about my business life, lockdown taught me to focus more on myself, my family, and my social well-being. I started analysing every aspect of life, which was a surprise, as I hadn’t done this in many years. I started considering this situation as a blessing, which eventually helped me to overcome all of the worst-case scenarios I was dealing with at the time.

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