Mental Health in Times of a Pandemic
It is important to keep in mind that mental health problems account for one third of the disabilities in adults across the world and yet is often not seen as a “real disease”.
These are uncertain times. A pandemic unlike anything that we have seen is threatening us in ways we never thought. Everything has changed overnight that most of us are still reeling from the aftershock. Be it the loss of a loved one to the fatal disease or a the loss of a means of livelihood or the effects of social distancing everyone is affected by this pandemic. Some of these impacts can be linked to elevated levels of stress or anxiety. Psychologists have raised legitimate concerns that an epidemic of mental health may happen amidst COVID 19. Precautionary measures like quarantine and self isolation may lead to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, self harm, alcohol and drug abuse which then result in further negative consequences.
Socioeconomic disparities resulting from job losses and other systemic barriers can exacerbate mental health issues among the general population amid COVID-19. In this regard, primary considerations should be given to how we guarantee service access and continuity for persons with existing mental health conditions whilst protecting the mental wellbeing of frontline workers, persons with COVID-19, and the general population.
It is important to keep in mind that mental health problems account for one third of the disabilities in adults across the world and yet is often not seen as a “real disease”. These issues oftenbtend to be under-addressed and overlooked in society. The stigma around mental health makes it harder for those individuals who face problems to access proper treatment or even speak up about their struggles and challenges.
Mental health treatments and solutions often involve them being applied consistently over a period of time to achieve the desired results. There is little room for quick fixes and short cuts. So it makes sense that we have institutions of accessible and sustainable community-wide support systems for addressing mental health challenges in this pandemic. However, the global focus is currently on implementing measures of physical distancing whilst caring for persons with COVID-19 in hospitals and ensuring that ventilators are available to support the sick in intensive care settings. Issues such as mental health of the general population, and especially frontline health workers and persons with COVID-19 are being overlooked.
Although the effects of the pandemic on our mental health is only beginning to come to light it is highly likely that they will stay with us long after the pandemic has been dealt with. After all , the pain of losing a loved one does not go away that easily, nor does the anxiety that came with unemployment. Whether we like it or not these effects are here to stay, much like an unwelcome guest who ligers in the living room making us all uncomfortable.
The effects of mental health problems associated with the pandemic can be seen as a disaster in slow motion. We can all see it happen, yet when we look at it closely it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s time to look at the bigger picture. Just to put things in perspective any loss, can result in mental health related problems for even ten years. The effects of a pandemic of this magnitude can be left to our own imagination. Every single person has been affected one way or other. It is high time we work towards removing the stigma around mental health.
The World Health Organization has put out guidance on mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 pandemic, which specifcally targets healthcare workers, the general population and those in isolation. It is important to follow these measures and make sure everyone else does too, because chances are the consequences of not doing so will be disastrous.
The COVID-19 pandemic is putting an enormous strain on the health care systems across the world. However it is not only a medical crisis. It is an economic, social and mental crisis all packages into one. Given the apocalyptic speed with which COVID-19 is sweeping across the globe, the mental health care of patients, health professionals and communities is being under-addressed . This is giving rise to major, medium and long-term consequences. We should be able to establish strategies to preserve the mental wellbeing of everyone. This is complicated, but crucial for the well being of human kind. A proactive and multifaceted approach comprising long term strategies rather than short-term crisis responses is our best option given that mental health problems have no short term solutions. To do nothing now is like watching a catastrophe in motion, having enough to to escape but still not moving a muscle because we are too bothered by what someone else might think. It’s time to move, it’s time for a change because it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the future of humanity is at stake.