The Covid-19 Pandemic and our Mental Health
Updated: Dec 28, 2020
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, most of us were obviously caught unawares and didn’t quite fathom the extent of its effects that would transpire over the next few months, and possibly longer. If you’re like me, you may have thought that this lockdown life may continue for 3 months at the most and then life would go back to normal gradually. (I thought I’d be vacationing come July 2020!) But now 6 months on, although lockdown relaxations are gradually being introduced, many of us are still working from home, cases are still on the rise and we’re still waiting on a vaccine!
This single event has affected everyone all over the world in some way or the other. Above all, the virus has infected millions the world over resulting in the death of thousands globally.
There is a slash in income and in many cases a loss of employment, and economies everywhere are suffering and it will be a while before the business starts picking up. The financial losses are staggering!
The new normal is now characterized by our work from home life. Schools and colleges too are shut and classes are presently online. And well, when we do step out, one has to adhere to guidelines pertaining to social distance and high levels of hygiene to be constantly maintained.
Of course, you may be well aware of all this. (One would literally have to be living under a rock to have missed all the happenings of the last six months, and even that would have been hard to miss with the noticeable decrease in noise levels and human movement.)
The effects on mental health
Along with the stress of keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy, we are coping with the inevitable additional stress and anxiety associated with fighting an unknown enemy, and with the kind of circumstance that many of us have never faced before. This may surely be overwhelming for some.
And while we’re grappling with the social and economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, there are unfortunately many who are dealing with it sans any social support as they may be unable to be with their families and loved ones because of quarantine measures and travel restrictions.
For others who may have unfortunately fallen prey to the virus, or have lost loved ones to it, this may undoubtedly have been a very scary ordeal and with the uncertainty and fear surrounding it, especially in the earlier part of 2020. Sadly, there have been instances reported of family members of individuals diagnosed with the virus being ostracized by the community. There were instances of Xenophobia (i.e., the hostile attitudes or aggressive behavior toward people of other nationalities, ethnic groups, regions, or neighborhoods) being reported, through harassment and bullying of individuals perceived to be of Asian descent. This of course is taking a massive toll on mental health.
And let us not forget the front-line and essential workers who risk their lives day and night to serve society. Initial studies reported depression, insomnia, and distress, especially in women and those on the front-line.
Getting through the pandemic
Everyone reacts to stress differently. For some they might face sleep disturbances or changes in appetite. Others might experience mood changes. Learn to identify such signs of stress in yourself. If you notice that you’re showing signs of stress, it would be beneficial to reach out to a mental health professional who can help you to help you cope better in such circumstances.
Mental health care providers may benefit immensely from being informed about this virus and its risks, as well as their own stress reactions to the situation, and seek out professional mental health intervention, if needed. Healthcare systems can support individual providers by monitoring their health – physical and mental. They can modify expectations and schedules, and set in place mechanisms that may offer psychosocial support as required.
We too can play our part in getting through this phase by checking in with those who may be most vulnerable to the virus and the effects of the pandemic, such as the elderly, those with a compromised immune function, and those living or receiving care in congested locations. People with pre-existing medical, psychiatric, or substance use problems are at increased risk for unfavourable psychosocial outcomes.
Another way to reduce stress and anxiety during this pandemic, is to monitor our sources of information. Restricting our news sources to only reliable verified sources can go a long way in preventing spread of baseless rumors and reducing stigma. This could in turn help us care better for our mental health by avoiding any potential unnecessary panic that may stem from wrong or fake news.
The circumstances surrounding us presently are unique and extremely grave. It is crucial that we pay attention to our health, both physically and mentally. While the points outlined here may help one to cope with the circumstances to a certain extent or in addition to professional treatment, it is important to note that they should not be used as a substitute for professional care or treatment. If you feel that you or your loved ones might be exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19 or experiencing psychological symptoms as a fallout of the present situation, it is pertinent that they seek professional help immediately.
1. American Psychological Association. (2021, January). Drinking, coping and COVID-19. Monitor on Psychology, 52(1). http://www.apa.org/monitor/features/alcohol-covid
2. American Psychological Association. (2020, March 25). Combating bias and stigma related to COVID-19. http://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19-bias