We are hit by a virus whose prognosis was uncertain, and so we tested the resources we had to its limit. Global health emergencies like these affect the health, wellbeing and safety of both, communities (adversely affecting health care systems, schools, organisations causing economic loss and financial strain and also unfair distribution of basic necessities) and the individual ( causing illness, confusion, loneliness, stigma and isolation). The effects of the pandemic have led to serious emotional and behavioural impact for people of all age groups.
Let’s take a look at what research in India tells us about the mental health impact of the pandemic. The most common mental health concerns recorded were stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. The most common emotions due to the pandemic were fear, denial and anger. Those who had a preexisting mental health concern were the most vulnerable. The pandemic related suicides have also become more and more common (Roy el al, 2020). There has also been more concern about unsafe self-harm in these times. (Sahoo et al., 2020)
With children although the risk of infection to children and adolescents is low, the stress that they face as the result of the pandemic puts them in a very vulnerable position. Stress as a result of necessary containment measures such as school shutdown affect their attainment of education, psychological and developmental milestones. Also, those young people who have mental health concerns benefit from structure and routine that might have been affected and they also may have difficulty in adapting to change in their environments further aggravating their concerns (Singh et al, 2020).
In our elderly population social isolation was found to be a major public health problem because it is the key cause of loneliness especially in old age and nursing homes and is a risk factor for depression, anxiety and sucide. Also, ageism is an aspect for stigmatization this could lead to neglect. Most of our elderly are not comfortable with today’s technology so precautions need to be explained and reiterated. They might not understand the gravity of the situation and be confused about it. For those who have cognitive impairments like wandering and forgetting it might be very difficult to follow precautions. Also information overload might lead to paranoia and mistrust of healthcare professionals (Banerjee, 2020).
With the virus being infectious, the stigma against individuals with the virus was way more! (Singh et al., 2020) Apart from being isolated, the guilt associated with the isolation, having the virus, and most potentially, having spread the virus was more. Having to quarantine also made this worse. (Greenberg, 2020) This meant individuals had to quarantine, be scared of what’s to come and then also be discriminated against. What’s more? The last rites of the individuals who succumbed to the virus were done in isolation – this meant more grief (with no particular sense of closure for the families. The family of the relative with COVID was also discriminated against . Essential workers got backlash for the same. This only makes the mental health of individuals already suffering from infectious disease worse. This was one of the main reasons guilt, inferiority, isolation, depression, anxiety and mental health concerns increased this year. (Bhattacharya, 2020) 2020 has taught us to be more aware, more informed and look up mental health terminology – even though our mental health had to take such a big blow for that result, it has led to much more widespread knowledge and advocacy about mental health, and that’s something we get out this year, the pandemic and the lockdown – let’s hold on to it!
Zahra is and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes and the dreamer of improbable dreams.She believes that imagination and stories are the greatest resources for humanity. She loves everything science fiction and likes learning about philosophy and history along with mental health of course. She cares for herself by treating herself with dark chocolate, walks and painting her versions of starry nights and yin and yang koi fish symbols.