Although the coronavirus is a virus that affects people’s physical health, it is known to have serious mental health effects. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to call it a mental health pandemic as well.
There are several fronts on which Covid has impacted people’s mental health, be it a lifestyle change, no routine, unforeseen workload for medical staff, and grief for the loss of their loved ones. It’s no secret that the mind and body are strongly connected. In addition to the body hormones and the immune system, the neurochemicals play an important role in the connection between body and mind. When an individual is exposed to significant stress, it can upset the fine balance between these neurochemicals, hormones, and the immune system, negatively affecting both the body and the mind.
There are also mental health issues that arise from the social distancing measures and lockdowns necessary to contain the spread of the virus. This increased anxiety and depression among people is also linked to the slowdown in the economy. To address these issues, it would be a good idea to first assess the types of effects Covid-19 can have on people’s mental health.
Those patients who are sometimes treated in the intensive care unit experience disorientation, paranoia, and anxiety due to an underlying disorder in metabolic parameters such as sodium and potassium. If they are not around family members and medical personnel are treated in PPE kits, they are barely recognizable. In addition, the severity of the disease around them can increase the fear factor.
Individuals who have just recovered from Covid-19 infection are dealing with symptoms such as anxiety, general weakness, and fatigue, also known as post-viral fatigue syndrome, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating. Some of the people given steroids as part of treatment for Covid infection also develop mood swings, irritability, and hallucinatory experiences described as seeing or hearing, which others cannot.
Loss and Grief:
There has been a great loss of life with the pandemic and people have struggled with a deep sense of sadness as loved ones were lost and felt helpless when they saw the affected family member in distress. The second wave of Covid that hit the country has contributed to this hardship as people are at a loss for not being able to organize the necessary support systems such as intensive care beds, oxygen bottles, medication, etc. in a timely manner, leading to significant results in anxiety and depression .
Children and young people are affected worldwide due to the insecurity of their education system and social isolation. Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, commented on the situation: “The global scale and speed of current educational disabilities are unprecedented.” The lack of a structured routine can also have a significant impact on children with special needs. There is uncertainty about school and college exams, ambivalence about careers, and movement to pursue courses / career opportunities outside of their hometowns or even countries. Children also suffer from the lack of a structured schedule. Teens experience a severely disrupted sleep-wake cycle due to excessive online gaming, excessive mobile usage, and screen time. They also show irritability, emotional upheaval, substance abuse, and feel disinterested or aimless.
Lifestyle Change and Behavioral Problems in Adults:
Due to the severe economic slowdown, certain businesses have collapsed and there have been enormous economic losses accompanied by stress and anxiety. Due to the increased emotional expression of anger, interference, and criticism, disagreements in marriage and family are growing. Excessive consumption of negative news additionally contributes to despair, fear, emotional trauma, helplessness, apprehension, insomnia and nightmares. People are also exposed to significant obsessions (repetitive doubts / intrusive irresistible thoughts) and compulsions (repetitive behaviors), health anxiety, disturbed sleep-wake cycle, panic anxiety, depression, anxiety, adjustment problems, depression and phobias.
Stress for medical and paramedical staff:
The pandemic has put a considerable strain on all medical and paramedical workers, as well as all front-line workers who are physically and emotionally drained. It is all factors that add to their stress, so much unprecedented suffering, insecurity, crisis management, staying away from their families and putting on PPE for long hours.
In order to address all of the above issues and to support the mental health of your fellow human beings, the following guidance and advice may be useful:
- Mental and physical health problems should be treated timely and appropriately.
- There is an urgent need to significantly increase the number of hospital beds, oxygen supplies, oxygen concentrators, ventilator beds and the availability of vaccines in both the public and private health sectors.
- A “solution-based approach” needs to be followed in order to develop an attitude with which things can be approached positively.
- Avoid or limit excessive negative message consumption.
- Follow self-discipline and stick to routine.
- Limit the screen time of children and teenagers.
- Against negative thoughts of resentment, negative comparisons or helplessness with positive thoughts and gestures of empathy, support and logical thinking.
- You also have to try to avoid negative judgments about yourself and others. This in turn avoids negative energy consumption.
- Mobilizing all available resources in a positive direction and in a positive way.
- Try to have a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Avoid substance abuse; Make time for exercise, yoga, and pranayam (breathing). Follow a balanced diet. Try to sleep on time and pay attention to sleep hygiene. Take time for a constructive / healthy hobby and relaxation.
- Avoid panic buying and hoarding. Such behavior leads to an unnecessary shortage of supplies for others around you who may need them more than you.
- If you feel unwell, follow your doctor’s instructions. Try to get in touch, and don’t be afraid to seek appropriate and timely psychiatric advice when needed.
Finally, try to keep faith and hope alive and develop helpful attitudes.
About the author: Dr. Sameer Malhotra is Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Drug Deaddiction, Executive Director, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences Department, Max Hospitals – Saket and Panchsheel Park.
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