May 29, 2020
When the novel coronavirus came into the limelight, the focus was primarily on the effects it had on one’s physical health, as opposed to the psychological implications on the affected and unaffected individuals. There have been reports of mental distress everywhere, especially among children and healthcare workers. With the outside world shut down, schools not functional, social life brought to a standstill, and news of millions falling prey to the virus every day, it is becoming harder for those with mental health issues to cope up.
According to a UN policy brief released on Thursday, throughout the pandemic, 47% of healthcare workers in Canada have reported a need for psychological support; 50% in China reported depression; 42% in Pakistan reported moderate psychological distress while 26% reported severe psychological distress. Parents in countries like Italy and Spain have reported that confinement due to the pandemic had resulted in their children having difficulty concentrating, increased restlessness and irritability, nervousness and feelings of loneliness. People can also face high levels of fear and anxiety, changes in sleep or eating patterns; find difficulty sleeping or concentrating; and may experience increased usage of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
“I think it is the absolute uncertainty of the future combined with having to confront things from the past because of the excessive time I have with myself that has resulted in anxiety and anxiety attacks. The mornings are the worst because I always wake up with a racing heart and shortness of breath. I have begun yoga and online hypnotherapy and it is making me feel better,” said Ananya, a college student from Dubai, who has been dealing with anxiety due to the pandemic.
The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that social isolation, fear of contagion, and loss of family members is compounded by the distress caused by loss of income and often unemployment. He added that it is not clear that mental health should be treated as a core element of our response to and recovery from the pandemic.
One can protect their mental health during such a time by:
Taking a break from reading or watching the news on the pandemic: Constantly having to watch or read negative news surrounding the pandemic can lead to stress.
Staying connected with people: Keeping in touch with people who care about you can help maintain good mental health during long periods of self-isolation.
Avoiding burnout: With a lot of time ahead of us, it is important to not face burnout. Take breaks from work, do exercise and eat healthily.
Take care of your body: Meditating, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, balanced meals can help maintain both your physical and mental health during this stressful time.