The outbreak of COVID-19 will undoubtedly have long-lasting consequences on mental health. For one, it already creates stressful conditions – not only financially but also psychologically. According to BetterHelp, people all over the world are experiencing fear, stress, sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and loneliness. Ultimately, these can result in suicidal behaviours, depression, and anxiety.
In the future, the spike of mental illnesses will break all the records and the need for mental health professionals will make it a more challenging task. Unfortunately, for developing countries, such as India, people lack an understanding of mental health and do not speak openly due to social stigma.
Generally, people only approach mental health professionals when things get worst. Needless to say, maintaining good mental health becomes a very important task during an ongoing global pandemic.
Psychosocial issues during the outbreak
- Unemployment. Unemployment affects physical and mental health. It arises out of the need for survival; people become hopeless, helpless, and often indulge in delinquency and self-harming behaviours.
- Poverty. People who experience poverty in the early stages of life often face cognitive deficits. It often results in higher levels of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, suicidal behaviour, and drug abuse. Also, in old age, it can result in depression, dementia, as well as Alzheimer’s disease.
- Poor interpersonal relationship. People who experience marital discords often face trust issues, domestic violence, and abusive behaviour which can lead to poor mental health not only to the individual themselves but also to family members.
- Immigration. Immigrants are staying away from their homes and some were staying alone away from their family; it becomes really hard to reach and feed their family as they are also facing unemployment which makes them feel hopeless, helpless, and depress.
- Stigma. People can display stigmatised behaviour and this can affect their mental health and well-being. The fear of contracting the virus creates stress not only on the patients as well as people who are not suffering from it. This fear can also be reinforced by consuming fake news.
- Social exclusion. COVID-19 survivors face discrimination and social exclusion; people are not ready to accept them in their society even if they tested negative. This creates the feeling of loneliness and it becomes worse if the survivor has history of mental illness.
Mental health disorders can mostly occur when an individual emotionally assaults oneself and this often leads to depressive symptoms or self-harming behaviours. Various factors such as emotional, cognitive, social, and environment cohesively influence distorted behaviour. Watching news stories the whole day can cultivate fear and anxiety among people.
Fear of loss or death, concern for self as well as the loved ones to contract the virus often can often result in anxiety. Over magnification and personalisation over things which are not within their control leads to despair.
With the spread of COVID-19 outbreak people who are not active on social media often experiencing loneliness. Eventually, all these factors creating stress can further impact the physical and mental health of the individuals.
During the pandemic, many people through phone interviews have their psychological health assessed. People suffering due to a lack of access to food saying that they will die from hunger before they die from COVID-19. People who work at daily wages hardly saved; complaining that they are not receiving any kind of ration from the government and in fact they don’t have work and don’t know for how long they are going to survive. Those who are doing private jobs are also not receiving any salary.
Feeding large families become very difficult. Some said watching news instils fear. Some said they get haunted dreams of the COVID-19 which makes them stressed. All these create fear and anxiety among them.
This clearly shows that in the future there might be higher rates in suicide rates, as people experiencing despair due to the virus. Therefore, as soon as possible the need for intervention across the world is required.
Due to COVID-19, people are facing both physical and mental health problems. But it becomes more challenging for people with pre-existing physiological issues, psychological and mental health issues.
The condition of the patients is becoming worse as they are not receiving a proper care, safety, and protection to deal with their illness.
Moreover, lockdown also limits their regular check-ups. People often experience learned helplessness which can worsen their mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness.
The current scenario demands awareness and social inclusion for the vulnerable groups. Moreover, it’s an appeal for all the stakeholders as well as policymakers not to only give concern about economic crisis, but also prioritise mental health, as the World Health Organization mentioned that there is no health without mental health.
Image credit: Freepik
Palak Bansal is an MSc student at the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Punjab Agricultural University.