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Ambika V


17 July 2020

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which started in late 2019, has turned the world upside down. While fear of the disease itself is rampant, the non-health related consequences of the pandemic have also done their part in challenging the mental well-being of people all over the world. In this article, we will be going through the various reasons for the worsening of mental health due to COVID-19.

The patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus are subjected to severe mental and physical stress. They face fear because of the uncertainty of when or if at all they will be cured of the disease and also have to face these challenges alone as they are isolated from other people. The patients who are already cured are also not spared as they may face stigma from society and may be treated as outcasts by people due to fear of catching the disease. People who have loved ones suffering from COVID-19 or have lost their family or friends due to this disease are also having a hard time.

People all over the world are showing varying degree of anxiety and stress in response to this disease, which is to be expected as it is a novel one which spreads fast and has no known sure-shot treatment. Along with fear of contacting the disease, people are stuck indoors all day for prolonged periods of time due to the various quarantine and social distancing norms set in place in various countries. Boredom, lack of physical activity and frustration at the inability to do anything all contribute to provoking depressing thoughts.  As the old saying goes “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”. Being forced to be apart from family and loved ones in some cases is also taking its toll by increasing worry and fear in the minds of such people.

A major problem which has arisen due this virus outbreak is unemployment. Every day, thousands of people are losing their jobs or are unable to go to work while others are worried of being fired from their jobs due to the financial problems faced by their workplaces. Another very concerning issue is that of domestic violence. While in India it is unfortunately under-reported, there has been an alarming rise in number of such cases reported in other countries – another consequence of being stuck at home.

Social media is both a boon and a bane during these times. While many medical organizations and healthcare professionals have used social media platforms to spread awareness regarding the disease, the amount of fake news that is being spread is causing anxiety that is uncalled for. Constantly looking at the ever increasing numbers of people affected and those who succumbed to the disease has also become a habit that is not helping anyone.

Declining mental health among students has also been observed as many are unable to cope with the shifting of the classes to the online format which they are not used to. The sudden shift has prompted students to learn independently and this acts as an academic stressor. This combined with the loss of daily routine and the general confusion has caused a decrease in motivation. The numbers of students dropping out or even resorting to extreme measures like suicide are on the rise.

Sexual and gender minorities who generally have a hard time finding healthcare providers are affected even worse during this pandemic.

Last but not the least are the health care professionals who are putting their lives on the line to care for their patients. Stress and overwork which are almost part of the daily routine are multiplied several folds due to the pandemic and it is common to feel overwhelmed and fatigued due to this situation. Health care professionals also face the probability of potential stigma and discrimination as they are in constant contact with those affected by COVID-19. These factors do not give much help to the already mentally taxing profession.

Experts have predicted that even though the COVID-19 pandemic may go away some day, the consequences of the pandemic may take a long time to be sorted out. Mental health is at the forefront of these concerns. As mental health comes with a lot of stigma, this aspect of the pandemic may be ignored. However, it is an issue which must be considered as important and will not just simply “go away”. Counseling must be provided to the people in need of it and people should be encouraged to talk about what is giving them a hard time and not hide it. As mentioned in the title, there is no health without mental health. It is high time that we acknowledged it and worked on resolving it.

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