EFFECT OF COVID-19 ON MENTAL HEALTH


INTRODUCTION

Due to the outbreak of Coronavirus since December 2019, people are pushed into isolation and confined to home after a long time. Health experts are concerned with the rising mental health issues being the next global crisis.

While this prolonged lockdown might have helped to curb the spread of infectious virus, it has not been taken well by some of the mental and emotional health groups.


Coronavirus is a huge obstruction to our daily life. It took a toll on our daily routine and brought changes that have chronic consequences. Novel coronavirus was declared as a threat to the world on January 7th 2020 by the World Health organization. Of all we know, Coronavirus took a backseat to the physical and mental health of the public. One consequence of COVID-19 is that we are all being urged to adapt to the changes and hustle harder than ever. This is just fueling fear, anxiety and many other issues around the world.


Often when we look up the word coronavirus, we come across terms like, mental health and depression. So, while half of us are doing just fine, the other half are inclined to solitude. We might ponder upon what is causing the increase in the rate of mental health issues.


QUARANTINE AND ISOLATION

Various strategies have been opted by the government to control the situation such as quarantine of people in the risk zone, by isolating the ones who are already infected or by putting travel restrictions thus reducing the chances of contact between the infected and the non-infected ones.


Quarantine is described as immobility of the people who were exposed to a contagious disease, restricting them from the surrounding to check if they become sick. Isolation on the other hand is the state of being away or separation of sick people from the people who are not infected with the contagious disease. The Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) conducted a survey, on analysis it was recorded that since the lockdown, the number of mental illness cases had increased by 20%, and that at least one in five Indians were affected. This rising graph will have much bigger implications if not paid attention to.


When opinions were asked regarding this topic, Soumitra Pathare, Director of Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy said “I suspect we're going to start seeing the impacts of mental health now. The crisis has gone on for long enough and people are running out of steam."


MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health is one of the integral forms of our body. As described by the World Health Organization, Mental health is dependent on biological as well as environmental factors. There is more to the definition of mental health than just the absence of mental disorder. Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life, sometimes physically and the other times mental, some just get overwhelmed by it while in a handful of cases people realize their own capabilities and hence can cope up with it to be more productive.


Often, Mental health is linked with factors such as rapid social changes and unhealthy lifestyle. Following is the list of causes of mental health disorder:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Loneliness

  • Self-doubt

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Drugs and alcohol


STRESSES DURING QUARANTINE
  • Duration of lockdown: If the length of lockdown is too long, it has the tendency to bring up the fear of being stuck at home, followed by depression.

  • Getting infected: when the health ministry does not provide adequate information regarding the disease, it fuels up the chances of doubts and overthinking.

  • Boredom: With nothing to do all day, the human brain settles for self-isolation which might have drawbacks of its own.

  • Inadequate supplies: The constant fear of running out of supplies during lockdown has taken a toll on people. Necessary plans and actions should be taken to ensure that everybody has enough resources before, during and after the lockdown.

  • Not having access to information: If the facts and symptoms are not made clear to the public, they cannot protect themselves from the disease.


POST STRESS
  • Employment status: Interruption in the work activity and no advance planning made it hard for people to survive this quarantine. According to a source, in the third week of April the rate of unemployment increased up to 26.2%.

  • Finance: With the rising graph of unemployment, the financial status of people is highly affected. Financial loss creates socio-economic distress, financial support and social support should be provided to avoid economical loss and depression.

  • Weight gain: A survey shows that people eat sweet products when in stress, this compensation leads to an increase in their weight.

  • Fear of socialization: After lockdown thoughts can be traumatizing to the public, people are getting accustomed to the changes, the thought of getting back to the old routine petrifies them.

In an interview with TOI Dr. Tiwari said, "Unprecedented conditions and more vulnerable groups of patients are a big threat to the spread of this illness, especially with the patients not even realizing he has a disease. Mostly are those who worry a lot and are addicted to any substance or alcohol."


ATTENUATING THE CONSEQUENCES OF QUARANTINE 

Quarantine is a necessary measure to prevent the outbreak of the disease. However, a small study shows that it has a long effect of psychological stresses on people for a prolonged period. A longer exposure to negative psychological stresses can only lead to more health problems thus more risk of having another global crisis. To avoid the risk of dealing with more problems caused due to the first one, effective measures should be made part of the quarantine planning process-

  • Restricting the length of lockdown: Giving a known duration of lockdown would minimize the effect of isolation on people. A study was conducted which has a major emphasis on the importance of the length of quarantine on the human mind. An explicit policy on the duration of stay may reduce the chances of PTSD.

  • Provide people with information: People who are quarantined are constantly worried about getting infected or being exposed to the disease. Public health organizations should make it clear about the nature of the diseases or the symptoms. If all the facts are revealed and a proper understanding of the diseases is provided, people would have lesser things to worry about.

  • Having adequate food supplies: Government should ensure that people have adequate food for the whole period of lockdown, if not available, basic necessities should be provided immediately. For e.g. when the lockdown when 21 days lockdown was announced on short notice, later extended constantly, an old-age home at Pune had a food shortage, which led to more trouble.

  • Overcoming boredom and communication barriers: Owning a digital device is now a necessity. It helps you connect to the ones far away and keep you from feeling lonely and isolated. A particular evidence proved that a group of people feeling the same thing, being in the same situation can be empowering and supportive.


POSITIVE EFFECTS OF LOCKDOWN

Lockdown has some plus points, albeit less, which people don't seem to realize at all. First, we’re making a huge contribution to flatten the curve by protecting your family and yourselves from the infectious disease.

  • Getting sufficient sleep: Attending school, getting to work etc. often requires people to commute for a long distance making it hard to catch on some sleep. With the current lockdown, we can step ahead to get our sleeping schedule right.

  • Eating home-cooked food: Our generation is more inclined to junk food, due to lockdown people are compelled to eat food made at home, having a healthier diet.

  • Working out: while some are gaining weight, others are focused on doing some physical activity like working out.

  • Self-care: Lockdown gave time to people to discover their passions and interests.

  • Connecting with the family: we are often so busy with our lives that we forget to have a proper connection with our family, since we are obliged to be at home, it gives us more time to reconnect with our loved ones.


IMPACT OF QUARANTINE

Survey 1

To assess the mental health of the people during the lockdown, a survey was conducted in which WHO ten well-being index and WHO Five well-being Index were included in the questionnaire. In the month of April 2020, a group of 150 individuals, 50 male, 50 female, 50 unmarried and 50 married, were randomly selected and were asked to fill a google form. The form included various questions regarding their age, gender, family status, marital status and occupation. Results were analyzed by SPSS software, it revealed that:

  1. In terms of gender, women are at greater risk for developing poor mental health than male.

  2. Unmarried individuals have more poor mental health than married.

  3. Family enhances the perception of being well, mental health of the nuclear family is better than the participants living in a joint family.

Survey 2

A study of stress reaction was conducted among 338 hospital staff members in East Taiwan that discontinued emergencies or those who might have come in contact with SARC. After being quarantined for 9 days, seventeen members of the staff suffered from acute stress disorder caused by it. In the same case, the staff was observed to report exhaustion, irritability, poor connection and degrading work progress.

It has been observed through the surveys that the people who were quarantined were most likely to report Psychological symptoms. Many symptoms such as irritation, insomnia, depression, anxiety, low mood and stress were discovered while analyzing the survey.


SOME PRACTICES TO STAY POSITIVE
  1. Schedule your day: Maintain a daily routine and stick to it as much as you can.

  2. Communicate: Make proper use to technology and connect with your family.

  3. Health: The least we can do is pay close attention to your diet and do regular exercise. Notably, it is concluded that exercise reduces stress.

  4. Avoid alcohol and drug indulgence: Overindulgence of drugs and alcohol can make the symptoms of mental health worse.

  5. Time for free activity: Hobbies may seem frivolous or non-essential at times, taking space to do things reminds us that there is more to life than just being productive.

  6. Avoid overthinking: Spare time is ghosted with innumerous thoughts; it can highly affect our mental health. Invest your spare time into learning new things and keep your brain busy.

  7. If you or someone you know is experiencing loneliness, finding it difficult to go through a normal day, have lost all interest in the future or have become completely isolated. ṣ themselves from others then reach out to the services whenever necessary without hesitation.

There are innumerous NGOs and organizations, putting their efforts to help those in need.

Toll-free numbers 08046110007 are provided by the health ministry for those who have mental health condition related queries.


CONCLUSION

According to the review, it can be predicted that this pandemic is going to have a huge effect on the lives of people. Psychological effects, if not controlled, will bring another crisis altogether. Although measures are taken to stop the spread of this infectious disease, the government should take evasive action to avoid more problems. In 2017, a mental health care act was introduced by Narendra Modi which guaranteed citizens' access to government-funded mental health care and treatment. In 2013, WHO introduced us to the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020 with the aim to control mental disorders, enhance, provide care and recovery for people with mental disorders.


In conclusion, it can be said that if not taken any proper initiative, it is likely that the pandemic will lead to increased cases of mental health problems. Indirect effects on mental health due to this pandemic highly needs to improve treatment, proper caring and planning for the preventive measures.


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