Mental Health Matters
July 08, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

Mental Health Matters

اردو میں پڑھیں 

The breakout of COVID-19 has brought about a significant influence on people's emotional and mental health.

In the attempt to contain this pandemic and provide acute care for those in need, the management of associated psychiatric problems is not considered a priority. But with the increased numbers of cases and fatalities, prolonged lockdowns, substantial restrictions on public life and economic drop-off, mental health problems are likely to rise aggressively.

Fear and Anxiety

The fear and anxiety that pervaded the world at the start of this pandemic continue to rise. When, if ever, will life return to what we used to experience earlier? Within the cascade of mixed ideas about science, what is real and what is false? How will this virus change the world we live in? How will everything change post lockdown? These unresolved questions make daily rounds on the news, accompanied by rising figures on illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by the virus worldwide.

Not surprisingly, experiences of anxiety, fearfulness, insomnia, irritability, and feelings of hopelessness are widespread. 

The main psychological impact of the virus has manifested as rising rates of stress or anxiety. New orders are being imposed, but none of them proved to be a remedy–especially quarantine and its effects on many people's usual activities, routines, or livelihoods. Levels of loneliness, depression, alcohol abuse, substance use, and self-harm or suicidal thoughts are also expected to rise.

Aggravating Risk Factors

Some of the significant risk factors which increase the chances of developing mental health problems during the pandemic are:

Conspiracy theories,

Misinformation, mal-information, and disinformation about the signs, symptoms, transmission, prevention, and treatment of the ongoing disease,

Socio-economic crisis,

The reaction of the media and governments to the epidemic served to increase the levels of anxiety in people, 

Travel restrictions,

Unemployment, acute poverty, and indebtedness,

Workplace hazard control, 

Postponement and cancellation of religious, sports, cultural and entertainment events, 

Panic buying and hoarding, 

Incidents of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination,

The stigma associated with the virus,

The psychological pressure of productivity,

Widespread domestic violence due to increased levels of poverty,

Overwhelmed hospitals and health organizations, and 

The overall impact on education, politics, socio-economic status, culture, environment, and climate. 

Everyone Reacts Differently to Stressful Situations

How people respond to the COVID-19 pandemic can depend on their background, social support from loved ones, financial status, existing health and mental state, residential community, and many other factors. The drastic changes that are happening around us because of this deadly virus, and the ways we try to contain its spread, can affect anyone.

Who Is More at Risk?

People who are clinically extremely vulnerable e.g., those who have underlying latent health conditions or those on immunosuppressants.

Children and teenagers.

Those caring for family members or loved ones who are old or already have underlying health conditions.

Frontline workers such as health care providers.

People who work in the food industry.

People who already suffer from mental health illnesses.

People who are addicted to drugs or any other harmful substances.

Employees who have lost their jobs, had their work hours reduced, or had other major changes to their employment.

People who have disabilities or developmental delays.

People who are socially isolated from their family or who live alone cannot meet their loved ones because of the extended lockdown.

People in some racial and ethnic minority groups.

People who are experiencing homelessness and are far away from their families.

Dealing With Stress and Anxiety

Take a break from all media outlets, especially the fake news that is being circulated on social media.

Take care of your body:

Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.

Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.

Exercise regularly.

Get plenty of sleep and rest.

Seek out social support. Spend enough time with your family and loved ones.

Call your healthcare provider if you feel uncontrolled stress which continues for several days in a row. Free and confidential can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.