COVID-19 has triggered an unprecedented global mental health crisis, whose scope will likely take years, if not decades, to fully comprehend. The effects of mental illness on the individual can be a powerful deliberating thing that takes time to heal.
In fact, more than half of respondents (51%) to an ICRC survey of seven countries said the pandemic had negatively impacted their mental health.
But there’s a bright side to the story. Mental health issues are now more widely and openly discussed than ever. Issues like loneliness-induced depression and social media anxiety-induced panic attacks are now hotly debated in public policy circles.
Here are five of the ways mental health has been impacted in adults and youth through the world pandemic:
The 24-hour media coverage and constant updates on the number of people who have contracted the disease and the number of people who have died – especially on social media exacerbated understandable personal fears. Even with vaccines, no one knows how long it will take for people to feel as safe as they did before the pandemic.
As COVID-19 spread, governments implemented lockdowns and other social isolation measures. These may have slowed the disease’s spread, but they also cut off vital human contact. During the lockdown, more than a quarter of respondents (26.6%) gave themselves a score of 7 or higher on a scale of loneliness, despite the fact that the majority (71.9%) had jobs. Because loneliness and major mental illnesses like depression are well-established links, these feelings of dislocation had to have a negative effect.
Emotional Impact of Living In A Bubble
As lockdowns continued, what began as a welcome break from the office began to exert its own pressures and stresses. Being in relationships 24/7 with people may be challenging when you’re used to having a bit of space. The pandemic had terrible consequences, with the UN Population Fund estimating a 20% increase in domestic abuse cases.
Layoffs And Other Financial Stress
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic cost 114 million jobs, and millions more may lose jobs when furlough programs end. The ILO estimates that lost working hours will cost the global economy USD 3.7 trillion. The mental health implications of this financial disaster – far worse than the 2008 global financial crisis – are still unknown.
The pandemic has also helped people understand how to care for their own mental health. Structure, minimal anxiety-inducing distractions, and a sense of personal control are all things we can work to maintain post-COVID.
Lockdowns have also taught businesses to be more flexible, allowing employees to spend more time at home and less time dreading the daily commute.
The pandemic has also raised awareness of common mental health issues that existed before the virus.
The pandemic may be seen as a timely wake-up call that helped reduce the stigma around mental illness.
Now more than ever we must invest in mental health and psychosocial support for everyone – communities and carers alike – to help people cope, rebuild their lives, and thrive through this crisis.