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Futures: COVID-19 and mental health

Experts have expressed concern about the effects of COVID-19 on people's mental health. Quarantine measures, worrying about the future and economic uncertainty can all add to fear, stress and anxiety. In the face of ever-changing circumstances and a prolonged impact from the virus, both medical staff and ordinary citizens need mental coping methods.  

Background 

Psychological resilience varies from person to person – some people endure hardships better than others. Isolation, a lack of social contact and news feeds constantly outlining challenges can negatively affect mental health and worsen the symptoms of those already suffering from mental health problems. These can be exacerbated by worsening economic conditions, mounting debt and potential unemployment.

A pandemic is a mental health challenge in many ways. According to a study published in the Lancet, quarantine measures can cause symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as confusion and anger. In isolation, the lonely may become even more isolated than usual. According to Time magazine, despair, depression and anxiety have increased in those with various anxiety disorders. Isolation and a decline in everyday coping methods has been linked to an increase in domestic violence. The thought of oneself or a loved one being sick or dying of a virus can be frightening.  

According to the WHO, you can support your mental wellbeing by:

  • minimising the time spent following distressing news
  • trying to help others wherever possible, and by focusing on positive stories of people who have recovered from their illness
  • accessing help and self-help advice (these are now mainly provided online and over the phone)
  • utilising digital support and activity services such as meditation apps, online yoga classes social companionship channels for those who are lonely. Many of these services are available for no cost.  

Impacts 

The pandemic affects the lives of countless people worldwide, and not everyone has the same opportunity to avoid infection, get treatment, or cope with the mental and economic losses caused by the virus. Also, contracting the virus can be a different experience for different people. It may take a long time for people suffering from fears and anxiety or working in a mentally-stressful position to return to normal. If left unprocessed, difficult experiences can even be passed down the generations. Support for mental wellbeing is likely to be needed long after the acute phase of the crisis.  
If people alienate from each other too much, jealousy, bitterness and blame-seeking may increase. This may reduce confidence in society, those in power and the healthcare system.
Transparency and consistent, clear communications regarding what is happening or has happened can support people's ability to deal with reality. It is important to talk about positive topics and prospects in the media and online discussions, especially in the face of a prolonged period of hardship. It is possible that changing circumstances and changes in people's needs will also generate new businesses and innovations. 

Additional Information

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