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Self-Isolation Triples Calls To Marital Counseling Hotlines In Iran

Pedestrians wearing protective masks against coronavirus (COVID-19) in Tehran, Iran. March 1, 2020.

An official of Iran's Social Services Organization on Tuesday said family disputes and calls to the organization's hotlines have tripled since the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) epidemic forced people to stay at home.

Behzad Vahidnia, Director General of Psychology and Counseling of the Social Services Organization, said the reason for the jump in the number of calls is that marital disputes have increased due to "increased contact hours and interaction between spouses".

According to Vahidnia, arguments over hygiene and leaving the house despite the need to stay home as well as having to deal with children who are not at school are among the reasons couples are making more calls to the hotlines now.

Vahidnia said children show a different pattern of behavior from grown-ups in the face of the coronavirus epidemic and may display their anxiety through hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Grown-ups find these behaviors hard to cope with and parents may disagree about how to deal with the children's behavior, he said.

On March 24, Hamid Mostakhdemin-Hosseini, a professor of sociology, warned about an increase in domestic violence, child abuse and abuse of the elderly due to the particular conditions that isolation imposes on families.

The anxieties that parents experience can even indirectly affect the children and make them anxious, he said and urged the authorities to take appropriate measures to ensure the mental health of the citizens.

Mostakhdemin-Hosseini also warned that fake news and rumors threaten the public's mental health and said their damage can only be prevented if people can trust the government information. Many Iranians believe that the government failed, or intentionally concealed, the coronavirus outbreak and its dimensions and kept the public in the dark before finally admitting the virus was killing people.

The Iranian government and health officials are now advocating more strict social distancing after weeks of resisting any quarantine. Schools, public venues and sports events, as well as businesses and some government offices, have been shut and are likely to remain so for an unspecified duration.

The authorities are also saying there will be punishments for refusing to comply with the guidance not to travel between cities.

According to the latest official figures announced by Iran's Health Ministry COVID-19 has claimed 2,989 lives in Iran and at least 44,600 people have contracted the virus. Health officials say currently 3,700 COVID-19 patients are in a critical situation.