The physical toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has been profound, with over 127 million cases worldwide and over 2 million deaths. These numbers have been of intensely focused on and publicized; however, what has gone rather undiscussed are the emotional and mental repercussions of this pandemic.
Based on the Latest News on the Coronavirus, It has been called the ‘mental health pandemic’ due to coronavirus crisis – a byproduct of loss of routine, ongoing isolation, and extensive worry as the COVID-19 crisis carries on into its second year.
Latest News on the Coronavirus: ‘Mental Health Pandemic’ Due to Coronavirus Crisis:
1. How the Pandemic is Affecting Mental Health
In the year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, billions of lives around the world have changed. Aside from its physical and economic toll, experts have warned that the coronavirus pandemic could have a years-long effect on mental health.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, those of us who worked in the field knew that there would be a mental health crisis,” Dr. Steven Taylor, a professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia and author of The Psychology of Pandemics, told Al Jazeera.
According to the World Health Organization on Latest News on the Coronavirus, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 1 billion people lived with a mental health problem. Worldwide, over 264 million people were affected by depression, and suicide was the second-leading cause of death among young people.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, critical mental health services were halted in 93% of countries worldwide, according to the WHO, while demand for mental health support continue to increase.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said that the effect would last for “many years to come”, as “each and every individual on the surface of the world … has been affected.”
Loneliness.Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization said that social disconnection was already a major public health crisis. Due to this pandemic, governments have imposed strict restrictions on work and social life, ordering people to stay at home and avoid gatherings – this has increased the loneliness felt by many people.
For instance, in Japan, the government established a ‘Ministry of Loneliness’ – an initiative that came after the country saw an increase in suicide rates last year. Last month, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that women in particular were struggling with loneliness and he urged the new Minister of Loneliness to identify possible solutions.
According to initial numbers released by the National Police Agency, a total of 20,919 committed suicide in 2020, an increase of 750 from the previous year. Local media reported that it was the first year-on-year increase in 11 years.
In the United, charities also reported an increase in cases of loneliness among elderly individuals. According to research conducted in the UK by PLOS ONE in September 2020, 36% of the interviewed people reported feeling sometimes or often lonely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist said, “Individuals who don’t have a strong social support network to begin and may end up being isolated by the nature of the disease, are a vulnerable group. They live alone and their family can’t visit them, they are at high risk as they can’t be supported either by their family or their friends or, religious organisations. And that isolation can lead to loneliness.”
He adds, “When loneliness kicks in, we have feelings of hopelessness. We have feelings of helplessness that can lead typically to depression, or substance use.”
Anxiety, Stress, and Depression.
From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, health professionals emphasized the importance of monitoring rates of anxiety, stress, and depression across vulnerable populations, including among health care workers.
Released in March, a study conducted by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health revealed that the global prevalence of depression and anxiety during COVID-19 was 24% and 21.3%, respectively. The same report revealed that before the pandemic in Asian countries, the estimate of depression prevalence ranged from 1.3% to 3.4%.
Rates of anxiety in Asia before the pandemic ranged from 2.1% to 4.1%. In China, a recent study showed that 34.1% of people subjected to quarantine during the outbreak in early 2020 reported feeling at least one psychological symptom.
In the United States, about 4 in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during this pandemic, compared with up to 1 in 10 adults who reported the same symptoms from January to June 2019.
In Europe, estimates of anxiety prevalence prior the pandemic was between 3% and 7.4%. By the middle of 2020, almost 1 in 5 adults experienced some form of depression in the United Kingdom – this is almost double from about 1 in 10 before the pandemic.
“[During this health crisis] you can’t separate the measures from the [symptoms] that we witnessed,” Dr Jose Ayuso-Mateos, Director of WHO’s Collaborative Center for Mental Health Services Research & Chairman at Universidad Autonoma of Madrid, told Al Jazeera.
“And in that regard, the most affected ones were the young people, the people that lived alone, those who have a previous health condition, those who have had a medical history, and front-line health workers,” he added.
In Madrid, Dr. Ayuso-Mateos said that emergency mental health cases among young people increased. “We had to open new beds and space for the young people, this was something we didn’t expect,” he said. “We saw an increment in the suicide attempts within the adolescent population.”
Dr. Klapow stressed that experiences of the “new normal” can be very different for everyone. “We tend to think that the impact on people as being kind of the same, but there is great variation,” he said.
“For some people, they were relatively OK, because their lives were not heavily disrupted … but we [also] saw people that became isolated … or people whose life was turned upside down because a loved one was ill, or their social circles disappeared.”
“The more disruption, the more potential psychological damage,” he added.
2. Effect on Front-Line Health Workers
Front-line healthcare workers are a highly vulnerable group as they are at a higher risk of not only being infected with the coronavirus, but they are also faced with a high workload during this pandemic.
According to Latest News on the Coronavirus, a recent review published in PLOS One, more than 1 in 5 front-line health workers experienced anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Across 65 studies involving 97,333 health workers, researchers discovered a high prevalence of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. On a regional level, estimates of anxiety and depression were highest in studies conducted in the Middle East.
“When we talk about healthcare professionals, we see that they’re pushing their psychological resources to the absolute limit,” Dr. Klapow said. “They’re very often in hopeless situations, where they can’t do what they’ve been trained to do. They can’t help people, or they’re watching people die.” He adds, “We can see anxiety disorders, depression and alcoholism or substance use.”
China, where mental illnesses have long been stigmatized, has been commended for its efforts to tackle the mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In January 2020, the National Health Commission of China shared principles to deal with the emergency psychological crisis, and mental health hotlines were enabled across the country to offer counselling and psychological services. For instance, in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, mental health workers set up a nightly program about mental health issues.
According to Dr. Taylor, “There was a self-help line where people could phone up and get advice .. and if they couldn’t solve the problems during the self-help consult, they got referred to Zoom meetings with mental health practitioners.”
Unfortunately, despite the quick reaction of Chinese authorities, anxiety, and depression were still prevalent among the country’s general population. But according to a Columbia study, China had the lowest prevalence of both disorders compared with other countries.
3. Effect on the Youth and Young Adults
Based on the Latest News on the Coronavirus: Those who reported the poorest mental health have been young adults and individuals who experienced financial adversity or were unable to receive care for other medical conditions. Not getting enough exercise, sleep, or face-to-face socialization also increased the risk for poorer mental well-being.
“People from all walks of life have been hit hard by COVID-19, although different age groups tend to differ in the types of stressors that they’re experiencing,” Steven Taylor, a professor and clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia and author of “The Psychology of Pandemics,” told DW.
In an interview, Simon Evans, a lecturer in neuroscience at the University of Surrey, said, “For many years there has been a rise in the number of young people experiencing problems with their mental health, and it is concerning to find that this has been significantly exacerbated due to COVID-19.”
A poll by Mental Health Research Canada showed that the 18-34 age group was struggling the most from COVID-19.
3. Effects on Pregnant Women
Latest News on the Coronavirus reported that research has highlighted a significant increase in poor mental health among pregnant people during COVID-19. One survey conducted by Home-Start UK, Best Beginnings, and the Parent-Infant Foundation discovered that 61% of parents had “significant concerns” about their mental health.
A group of maternal mental health organizations have looked into the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health and wellness. They discovered that pregnant women and new parents were much more likely to report feeling lonely, anxious, depressed and report having suicidal thoughts.
The Maternal Mental Health During A Pandemic report pulled together evidence that suggested that due to a number of reasons, including domestic violence, socio-economic inequalities, and economic insecurity, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women.
This mental strain caused by COVID-19 wasn’t felt equally. The study emphasized that maternal mental health was generally worse as pregnant people worried that they would catch the virus. It also discovered that pregnant people worried about their baby’s wellbeing and the health of those around them.
Fears about partners being excluded from appointments and births increased anxiety and worries about job security after the baby’s birth contributed to poorer mental health.
Research and anecdotal evidence have suggested that it’s been very tough to be pregnant during the pandemic. However, the study also discovered that families from diverse ethnic communities, single-parent families, and people with limited access to online services were also disproportionately affected by restrictions.
Ways to Take Care of your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic
According to Latest News on the Coronavirus, this ‘mental health pandemic’ due to coronavirus crisis is a sad reality. However, there are steps that you can take to protect your mental health amid this COVID-19 pandemic.
Below are 3 ways to take care of your mental health during this pandemic.
- Stay active.
Even if you can’t go out for a run or go to the gym due to lockdown restrictions, make sure that you still stay active at home. There are numerous at-home exercises that you can do, such as squats, pushups, lunges, and more. If you have exercise equipment like a stationary bike or treadmill, make use of them! Also, doing household chores, such as sweeping, doing laundry, or cleaning bedrooms are good workouts too.
The most important thing is getting your body moving, which isn’t only good for your physical health, but for your mental well-being as well.
- Limit the amount of news that you read/watch.
While it’s important to stay informed about the latest coronavirus updates, you need to balance your intake of COVID-19 news. Why? Constantly reading or watching news stories about COVID-19 can be very upsetting, and can create a lot of anxiety.
Take a break from watching, listening or reading the news. Instead, schedule time to watch or read something fun. Maybe there’s a movie that you have always wanted to see on Netflix. Or maybe there’s a book you’ve never quite finished. The important thing is to make sure that you don’t suffer from information overload. Give your mind a break and give it a chance to ‘have fun’.
Note: Make sure to get your COVID-19 news and updates from reputable sources! This way, you can avoid any false information or misunderstandings which may lead to more fear, anxiety, and frustration.
- Connect with your loved ones.
While you can’t throw a family party or go out of town with your friends, there are still plenty of ways that you can connect with your loved ones.
In today’s highly digital world, connecting with your loved ones is easier than ever. You can now stay in touch with your family and friends through phone calls or video chats using apps like Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime, to name a few.
Talking with people you love can bring joy and comfort despite the physical distance between you. Furthermore, talking with people you trust about your concerns can help alleviate some of your worries. Plus, it doesn’t just benefit you – you could be helping your loved ones as well! Staying connected can be beneficial for both of you.
Latest News on the Coronavirus: The Bottom Line
Aside from its health and economic toll, there is also an ongoing ‘mental health pandemic’ due to coronavirus crisis. While its effects vary from person to person, it’s undeniable that it’s affecting all of us – physically, financially, emotionally, and mentally.
However, there are steps that you can take to protect your mental health amid this COVID-19 pandemic. Staying active, limiting the amount of news that you read/watch about coronavirus, and connecting with your loved ones are great ways to stay mentally health amid everything that’s going on.
Stay healthy and safe!