The end of 2019 marked the beginning of the spread of the Corona-Virus. Originating in China, it began to take over the world, and one by one, nearly every country in the world had people losing their lives or falling severely ill because of the virus. Following the emergence of the Virus WHO, by March 2020, declared a global pandemic due to the global-wide spread of the disease.
Countries, all around the globe, came to a stand-still. Lock-downs were put in place and only under dire circumstances could a person leave the safety of their home. By February 2021, over 108 million cases were reported worldwide.
The threat was real. People were well and truly horrified by such a disease. Never in their lives had they faced such a horrifying reality. And this reality had a major effect on their mental health. From anxiety to depression to panic attacks. Not to mention the loss of loved ones because of the Virus.
Measures to prevent the spread of the virus included canceled flights, mandatory use of face masks in public places, social distancing, restrictions of large gatherings, closure of restaurants, schools, universities, offices. While worldwide health authorities and WHO worked on containing the outbreak, such a period of health crises has had serious repercussions on the human mind and emotional state of being. All these factors, and more, contributed to a major spike in the development of mental health problems in communities.
Impact of COVID on Our Communities and on Mental Health
Communities are a vital source of support during crises, providing not only support but prosocial responses as well. The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many people’s mental health and has created new barriers for people who were already facing some form of mental health issue. This has also led to a social disassociation among communities as people became more and more afraid of their neighbors for fear of spread of the virus. Simultaneously, lockdown restrictions have forced communities that were already vulnerable to depend upon the support of fellow residents.
As people grapple with the impact on health, social and economic fronts because of corona-virus, mental health has also been affected. Many people have reported not only psychological distress but also symptoms of depression, anxiety or PTS (Post Traumatic Stress). Not to mention the increased rates of widespread suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Though everyone has been mentally affected, some groups of people have been more so than others. People have been left vulnerable to social isolation and disconnectedness because of extended school, university and office closures. This has caused feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and loneliness which has led to behavioral problems. Not to mention for some children, women and even men being made to stay at home may have increased the risk of not only family stress but also abuse.
While awareness for mental health has risen, the services provided to combat these issues have been disrupted. With psychologists and therapists being deployed to areas where the virus was more widespread, to help the communities deal with the loss and fear, the patients were left vulnerable and without any help to cope with their own mental health issues. Unemployment and lack of funds also lead to people putting a pause on their sessions with their therapists and seeking treatments.
Speaking of the people who were victims of the virus, one can say they were the most affected during the pandemic. Not only did they live in fear of the virus, but they also lived in fear of their lives when they were sick. That kind of fear, especially alone, can lead to severe damage on a person’s mental, emotional as well as psychological health. People have been diagnosed with PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder. Something that has only been recorded in soldiers who have seen battle or people who have suffered a traumatic event in their lives.
Mental health is more than the presence or absence of a mental illness. It is an interconnected pathway of emotional, psychological and physical well-being. In the past three years, many people have faced challenges due to mental health. COVID-19 has led to isolation, both self and social, in addition to disconnection with friends and family. Moreover, because of people being in quarantine and on lock-downs have put restrictions on people they never thought possible. All these factors have led to people experiencing feelings of helplessness, grief, isolation, depression and anxiety. As the world tries to get back on its feet, there have been continuing efforts to advocate for mental health and well-being in our communities. It is important to consider the increased need for awareness on mental health and work on solutions to help those fighting their inner battles by providing them some form of support, as a person and as a community.