Psychological Effects Of COVID-19 And The Plan For The Future
This COVID-19 is a novel mutated virus that has shaken the whole world. Even the most advanced healthcare systems couldn’t stand before it. The damages are far beyond our calculations and estimation, but the losses are not just physical and economic but also mental.
So far, the only way to avoid contracting this virus is social distancing until the vaccine is developed. COVID-19 is the first pandemic of this modern age of communication and social media. We experienced a similar condition back in 2003 with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, which taught us a lot of lessons that can be put to good use now.
According to various studies on the SARS outbreak in 2003, the number of people with mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in the affected areas was significantly increased. And we may anticipate a similar rise is such cases after this pandemic too. This will probably be worse since 3 billion people are currently under lockdowns.
What is going to happen with the mental health of the world?
The real problem is that even if we succeed in coping with the physical spread of COVID-19 pandemic through quarantining and social distancing, the mental health effects of the virus might take us years to get over with. We are in a crisis right now and long-term consequences are very important to address. It is difficult to see the larger picture when the current events are so adverse; however, it is crucial to plan the steps in the best public health interest, once this pandemic passes and the situation changes from the response to recovery mode. We don’t know exactly what the future will hold for us, but we can try to plan for it. Studying past pandemics, riots, mass uprisings, protests, and natural disasters can teach us how large-scale events affect mental health. We can get an idea of the consequences of such events by reading history.
A study was published earlier this year, investigating the mental health effects of riots, revolutions, and protests. The objective of the study was to estimate the losses both in the short run and long term. Researchers found the prevalence of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among people when riots were over. These studies can help us to plan for the time when the pandemic will be over. While people are only talking about shares market, they forget about the economic brunt of COVID-19 to be borne by the low-wage earners. Domestic abuse is also on the rise.
Now the measures we can take to mitigate its effect, the first step could be to impart the very accurate and updated information on COVID-19, try to avoid sharing the miscalculated, manipulative, and misleading information, which can lead to undue fear. Along with this, try to play your part by giving people hope. Secondly, the people who are already suffering from depression and anxiety, and children need special care during this time. Our health facilities should be preparing for the worst. Thirdly, we all have this huge responsibility to ensure that we are responsive and respectful to the mental health of people acting as first responders. All of us should volunteer and take care of people around us, be there for them, be good listeners.
The government should make a special unit that conducts studies in this regard and prepare for the future.
The author is a Ph.D. candidate at China Agriculture University, Beijing