People suffering from mental health face the additional stress of having to also deal with the pandemic
By: Maryam Ahmed
Throughout the world, the public is being informed about the physical effects of Covid-19 and steps to take to prevent exposure to the virus and manage symptoms, if they appear. However, the effects of this pandemic on one’s mental health have not been explored or talked about much.
As all efforts are focused on understanding the epidemiology, clinical features, transmission patterns, and management of the COVID-19 outbreak, there has been very little concern expressed over the effects on one’s mental health and on ways to prevent stigmatization. As the pandemic progressed and different preventive measures were implemented, the mental health of many people deteriorated as well. The present situation requires raising awareness in the public, which can help to deal with these unprecedented times.
A pandemic is not just a medical phenomenon; it affects individuals and society and causes disruption, anxiety, stress, stigma, and xenophobia. Rapid human transmission of the virus resulted in the enforcement of regional lockdowns to stem the further spread of the disease. Isolation, social distancing, and closure of educational institutes, workplaces, and entertainment venues consigned people to stay in their homes to help break the chain of transmission. However, the restrictive measures undoubtedly have affected the social and mental health of individuals across the globe. Many people experienced a lot of anxiety and depression for different reasons throughout this pandemic. A significant cause of anxiety for a lot of individuals was the fear of losing their loved ones and/or jobs.
Due to the outbreak and the closure of most workplaces, many businesses could not afford to continue to pay their employees; therefore a lot of people lost their jobs. Dealing with financial constraints has been a very significant source of stress and anxiety for many individuals. Another cause of anxiety for a lot of people is the fear of contracting the virus and having to isolate themselves from their loved ones for weeks or worse, death.
These concerns continue to be at the forefront of people’s minds as the world continues to navigate this pandemic. Many individuals who lost loved ones due to the virus, fell into a deep depression from their grief and inability to spend the last moments with their families. For many people, especially older and young adults, it has been the inability to socialize with their peers that has led to the deterioration of their mental health. Studies have shown that loneliness and self-isolation are associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
During the last two years, there has been a rise in stigmatization and xenophobia relating to people who have recovered from the virus or those who work directly with people who are sick with the virus. Generally, people recently released from quarantine can experience stigmatization and develop a mix of emotions. Everyone may feel differently and have a different welcome by society when they come out of quarantine. People who recently recovered may have to still exercise social distancing from their family members, friends, and relatives, due to the viral nature of COVID-19.
The origins of the virus have subsequently led to an increase in acts and displays of violence, discrimination, racism, and xenophobia against people of East Asian and Southeast Asian heritage. This stigmatization and discrimination against already marginalized groups in society can contribute to low self-esteem while increasing the odds of them having a higher risk of developing stress relating disorders such as anxiety and depression. These effects on an individual’s mental health are very prevalent and can have a domino effect throughout society.
Understanding the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the mental health of people, are as important as understanding its clinical features and transmission patterns which are key to ultimately managing one’s state of mind.
Although many have suffered from mental health in silence for decades, it has only become more socially acceptable to talk about it publicly a few short years ago. While experts are still working to understand the many causes of this disease, they all agree that seeking professional help, spending time with family members, regular exercising paired with a healthy diet are all factors that can have positive effects on someone suffering from mental illness.