Life as we know it has changed. The COVID-19 epidemic has caused many changes to everyday lives. Many people lost their livelihoods while others lost their lives fighting the virus. In America alone, 514,000 people lost their lives due to the pandemic. Everything came to a standstill as the world shut down amidst a global pandemic.
There are many indirect effects of the pandemic. Global social distancing policies forced people to stay at home. The rise in unemployment, mental and physical stress, and family isolation led to an unprecedented increase in domestic violence and abuse. For those people who are not safe at home, the past few months have been hellish. Undeniably, the global pandemic has worsened existing issues and brought new ones into the mix. Other problems such as drug abuse, suicide, and homelessness have also exacerbated.
We will consider five damaging effects of a pandemic on our mental health:
- Domestic Violence:
According to one report, there has been a 10% increase in domestic violence calls during the pandemic. But where can these victims go? Shelters are already at maximum capacity, and they had to turn away people to keep others safe from the virus. Victims have had to live with their abusers and aggressors for prolonged periods without any access to help. And this will have a significant effect on their mental health. According to research, domestic violence leads to PTSD, depression, and anxiety. It may also result in suicide and drug abuse.
- Anxiety about the unknown:
During the early days of the pandemic, no one knew anything about the virus. We did not know how it spread and how to control or stop it. This fear of the unknown caused widespread anxiety amongst people. Furthermore, there were no typical symptoms for everyone. People were getting into a blind panic, buying supplies and stockpiling groceries. Fortunately, epidemiology saved the day. Those not familiar with this term might be saying, “What is epidemiology?” Generally speaking, it is the study of diseases at a macro level to identify the causes and consequences of diseases. So, next time you hear about things getting better, say a little prayer for the epidemiologists. However, the period of uncertainty can have long-term effects on our mental health.
- Somatic Symptoms:
Somatic symptom disorder (SSD) or Somatization disorder is a mental illness that causes patients pain and high levels of distress. However, the pain is not necessarily traceable to a physical cause. Most people who have SSD may also have an anxiety disorder. Studies show that concern regarding COVID-19 is directly related to the increase in somatic symptoms. College students showed moderate indications of SSD, while primary school students exhibited mild symptoms. People with pre-existing SSD saw their conditioning worsening. These conditions strain the healthcare system due to increased emergency visits. Therefore, the government should try to reduce the detrimental effects on mental health.
- Suicide Rates:
Many communities face mental health challenges because of COVID-19. The most significant side effect is that it worsened the mental health of those already struggling with mental problems. It has been challenging for those who already suffered from suicide ideation. Some groups were more vulnerable to suicide ideation, including young adults and people of color. A report found that 48% of Black respondents and 46% of Hispanic respondents suffered from suicide ideation. Suicide ideation is more pronounced for young adults compared to others. The government must play a proactive role in suicide prevention. Community-level targeting members at risk can improve mental health conditions.
- Substance Abuse Disorder (SUD):
COVID-19 has spiked alcohol consumption and substance abuse. As most people continue to isolate themselves and others lose their livelihoods, the numbers will increase. Young adults, children, and essential workers are most at risk of substance abuse. According to a study, more people are abusing alcohol and drugs than ever. There is a marked increase in overdose deaths during the past year. It is not a coincidence that these numbers coincide with the beginning of the lockdown. Drug abuse may also make people more vulnerable to COVID-19. For example, people with SUD are 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19. Therefore, it is a vicious cycle. SUD not only increases the likelihood of contracting the virus but also makes the symptoms more acute.
The harmful effects on essential workers:
Essential health workers have to work outside during the pandemic, often near COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, they may have to isolate themselves from family members to stop the spread. The shortage of personal protective equipment has also made their lives challenging. According to a report, these factors make them more likely to develop mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and suicide ideation.
Medical professionals have to work in intense situations. But the past few months have been extremely challenging for them. Not only did they have to see thousands of people fight for their lives, but they were unable to help them.
Everyone is struggling to cope with mental issues amid the pandemic. You can also make some changes in your life to improve your mental health. Set up a routine for yourself and try to keep in touch with your friends and family. It is vital to take this opportunity as a time to learn more about resilience. Chances are, you will find pools of strength you never knew you had.