Infectious outbreaks across the world unprecedentedly targeted socio-economic sectors in the past
and had detrimental effects on the mental health and psychological behavior of the general public,
specifically vulnerable groups, including the elderly, the young, healthcare professionals & people
with pre-existing mental health issues.
Covid-19 is no different. Ever since Covid-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 emerged from Wuhan of China in December 2019 and started sweeping globally, WHO (World Health Organization) in March 2020 categorized it as a pandemic and started focusing on controlling and curbing the impact of this pandemic by identifying, testing, treating infected people, developing drugs, vaccines and treatment protocols.
Despite such efforts, the direction of the covid-19 pandemic got worst and worst leaving the world no choice but to implement lockdowns, social distancing, and quarantine, disrupting usual activities leading to an increase in anxiety, depression & loneliness.
Public health emergencies like pandemics take a toll on mental and psychological well-being. Children are particularly vulnerable because of their limited understanding of the event. They are unable to escape the harms of the situation physically and mentally as they have limited coping strategies. They may not be able to communicate their feelings like adults. To curb community transmission of COVID-19, governments have resorted to activating emergency measures, such as the imposition of lockdowns, closure of schools, self-isolation, limiting the people in public places to ensure physical distancing.
The family and friends of persons with COVID-19 who get admitted to hospitals are not being allowed to visit their sick loved ones out of fear of transmitting the virus. These strategies, which limit normal human interaction and social media misinformation–increase the levels of chaos, stress, and tensions within communities.
There are legitimate concerns that an epidemic of mental illness could actually occur in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic and affect all generations.
Impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of the general population
COVID-19 is the third major coronavirus outbreak over the past 20 years that has had a substantial socioeconomic impact. Distress, uncertainty, and unpredictability have led to the emergence of mental health issues, such as panic, anxiety. Strict quarantine measures that restrict personal freedom combined with the widening economic crisis and unemployment mainly affecting daily wagers, which include a substantial proportion of the workforce in lower-income countries have resulted in various deleterious ways.
Impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of children & adolescents:
Children are not indifferent to the significant psychological impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. They experience fears, uncertainties, changes to their routines, physical and social isolation alongside a high levels of parental stress. Children’s mental health development appears extremely vulnerable in the COVID-19 era, as they are exposed to chronic stress conditions, such as forced isolation from peers due to social distancing and worries about the health and financial status of their relatives.
Impact of Covid-19 on the mental health of Health care professionals:
Frontline health workers are faced with the daunting task of caring for large numbers of very sick persons in the midst of uncertainty and medical crisis. frontline HCPs in hospitals and long-term care facilities are at a significant risk of adverse mental health outcomes as they have been confronted with challenges that have not been faced before. These tensions are further magnified by fear of being quarantined or having to deal with inadequacies on the system such as a lack of PPE and ventilators. There are also the added anxieties involved with the assumption of new or unfamiliar clinical roles in outbreak situations. The COVID-19 pandemic is putting an enormous strain on the health care systems. It is not only a medical crisis.
Impact of Covid-19 on people with pre-existing mental health conditions:
Patients with pre-existing mental health issues appear extremely vulnerable to relapsing during the
COVID-19 pandemic, as the unpredictability of this pandemic, has been aggravating anxiety, depression, panic, and suicidality. Moreover, patients with serious psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, who are commonly socioeconomically disadvantaged, are further compromised by stay-at-home orders and subsequent reduced access to employment opportunities, thus worsening their economic distress. Mentally ill patients have been negatively affected by implementing strategies to curb Covid-19.
Impact of Covid-19 on people infected with SARS-CoV-2:
Physical isolation from family members or loved ones during quarantine or hospital stay can produce psychological instability among people infected with SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, high rates of PTSS are evident among patients that have recovered from COVID-19 and were discharged from the hospital. Furthermore, in a recently published study, the risk of depression was higher among COVID-19 patients.
This could be due to the coronavirus affecting the brain directly or indirectly by inducing a massive cytokine response harming the brain. COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives dramatically. This unprecedented in size and duration and still ongoing global biothreat, which affects us all regardless of skin color, ethnicity, and wealth, has already had a tremendous impact on the mental health of the general population, but most importantly on the psychological well-being of vulnerable groups, such as the mentally ill, frontline healthcare workers, the younger, the elderly and the most socioeconomically deprived.
It is of utmost importance to acknowledge these consequences on the most exposed, as well as the huge strain on mental healthcare, and to identify healthcare system vulnerabilities during times of crisis.
Author: Samra Komal
Student of MS Industrial Biotechnology at NUST