Impact of a Pandemic on Mental Health

Education News | Oct-16-2021

Impact of a Pandemic on Mental Health

As a pandemic sweeps across the world, it not only puts a burden on Physical health but also mental health due to widespread anxiety, worry, and concern among the general public, as well as among specific groups such as older individuals and those with underlying health issues, etc. It demands increased mental health services. Bereavement, isolation, loss of income, and fear are aggravating mental health issues or exacerbating existing ones. Many people may be facing increased levels of alcohol and drug use, insomnia, and anxiety.

The current global COVID 19 pandemic is unprecedented in recent history, in response to this global health crisis, quarantine and lockdown measures were implemented by international and government health organizations to contain the rapid spread of the virus. Further measures included suspension of flights, avoidance of large gatherings, mandatory use of face masks in many countries, social distancing, teleworking, home-schooling of children, and health orders to stay at home but this was accompanied by catastrophic effects on the mental health of the population. The COVID-19 pandemic is linked to extremely high levels of psychological anguish, which in many cases, would meet the threshold for clinical relevance. Mitigating the hazardous effects of COVID-19 on mental health is an international public health priority. Relatively high rates of symptoms of anxiety (6.33%-50.9%), depression (14.6%- 48.3%), post-traumatic stress disorder (7% -53.8%), psychological distress (34.43% - 38%), and stress (8.1% -81.9%) are reported in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though everyone can equally be a victim of mental distress during these hard times, the population which is more prone to experience devastating mental distress is the elderly; Physical distancing due to the COVID‐19 outbreak can have drastic negative effects on the mental health of the elderly and disabled individuals. Physical isolation at home among family members can put the elderly and disabled person at serious mental health risk. Elderly people depend on young ones for their daily needs, and self‐isolation can critically damage a family system, the younger age group; Children, away from their school, friends, and colleagues, staying at home can bring out feelings of loneliness. Kids can experience anxiety, distress, social isolation, and an abusive environment that can have short or long‐term effects on their mental health, and the health workers; Doctors, nurses, and paramedics working as a front‐line force to fight the COVID‐19 outbreak may be more susceptible to develop mental health symptoms. Fear of catching a disease, long working hours, unavailability of protective gear and supplies, patient load, unavailability of effective COVID‐19 medication, death of their colleagues after exposure to COVID‐19, social distancing and isolation from their family and friends, and the dire situation of their patients may take a negative toll of the mental health of health workers.

History has shown that the mental health impact of disasters outlasts the physical impact, suggesting today’s elevated mental health need will continue well beyond the coronavirus outbreak itself. Hence, it is extremely important to look after one’s mental health by staying engaged in activities you love, staying in touch with friends and family through social media, take breaks from the news, meditate daily, feel free to talk about your feelings, etc. “Good mental health is fundamental to overall health and well-being”.

By : Ruhin Gulati
Shikshantar School, Gurgaon