On March 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was declared a global pandemic. To reduce the spread of the virus, many jurisdictions enforced restrictions such as social distancing, travel restrictions, and ban on public gatherings. Consequently, the lives of millions of people around the globe have been impacted significantly, both socially and economically. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people are facing challenges that can be overwhelming, cause strong emotions, and stressful. The paper aims to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. The effects of the pandemic on livelihoods have contributed to unprecedented mental health problem. Learning to cope with anxiety and stress in a healthy way will, thus, make persons more resilient.
Pandemics pose a serious threat to mental health. Several studies have documented the impact of COVID-19 on mental health on different population. Semo and Frissa (2020) note that 45% of the adults in the U.S. reported experiencing stress and anxiety, with the numbers expected to increase as people continue to stay at home and keep social distance. In the U.K., around 33% of the population indicated having experienced high levels of anxiety since the onset of the pandemic (Semo & Frissa, 2020). A review by Schäfer et al. (2020) established a consistently negative effect of the pandemic on mental health, with 16-18% of the people participating in the studies showing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Young people, women, and persons with poor sleep patterns are at an increased risk of developing mental health problems. The front-line healthcare workers have also been affected by the pandemic significantly. Moreno et al. (2020) found out that 50% and 34% of the healthcare workers across 34 hospitals in China reported symptoms of depression and insomnia consecutively. At the same time, 72% of the workers reported distress, with the symptoms of distress and anxiety being more prevalent in women than in men (Moreno et al., 2020). These figures are indicative of the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of both the general public and healthcare workers.
The evolution of COVID-19 and its impact on livelihoods remains unpredictable and uncertain. The stress emanating from job losses and worsen livelihoods can be overwhelming to many, especially to persons of low socioeconomic class, including those working in the informal sector. The unpredictably is highly aggravated by the heterogeneity of healthcare systems around the world, which, in turn, cause difficulties in obtaining vaccinations and accurate infection numbers (Moreno et al., 2020). The outbreak of the COVID-19 was sudden and unexpected. Consequently, most countries lack the economic strength to cushion their citizen from the adverse impacts of the virus, such as loss of jobs and reduced incomes. The downturn of economic activities caused by the pandemic resulted in unemployment, increased poverty, and financial insecurity, which, in turn, hindered the access to health-care facilities, especially among people who depended on employer-funded healthcare insurance schemes.
Restrictions related to the pandemic limit people’s ability to access basic services and reduced social and family support, especially among the older populations. As a result, both the physical and mental health was deleteriously affected, consequently reducing the quality life. Coupled with the strict measures taken to curb spread of the virus, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the coronavirus has created despair among many global citizens, consequently forcing many to turn to alcohol and other drug substance abuse, which further increase the risk of mental health (Schäfer et al., 2020). Quarantines and mandatory isolation for people suspected to have interacted or been exposed to the virus may contribute to stress, anger, and increase in risky behaviors, such as drug use. Young people and children are particularly at an increased risk of being affected by the negative consequences of quarantines and isolation. As Moreno et al. (2020) found out, quarantined children are likely to develop adjustment disorders, acute stress disorder, and grief than those who have not been quarantined. Most communities are structured with a strong community support and neighborhood support. Events limiting social interactions are, thus, likely to impact the mental health of populations in unprecedented ways.
Strong stigma associated with COVID-19 has a severe impact on mental health of people who have contracted the virus and their families. According to Semo and Frissa (2020), stigma and discrimination of COVID-19 patients, survivors, and affected families has a direct impact on the mental health of the victims. For people suffering from the disease, the lack of contact with loved ones and families either during hospital stays or isolation period can produce psychological instability. People who have suffered from COVID-19 can experience post-intensive-care syndrome, including neurological, cognitive, and psychological symptoms. Moreno et al. (2020) found out that 33% of patients recovering from COVID-19 after admissions to intensive care units (ICUs) developed a dysexecutive syndrome after discharge. Front-line healthcare workers have also reported negative consequences of the pandemic due to the stress of dealing with high number of cases, job strain, and being overwhelmed. At the same time, frontline workers are affected by the fear and anxiety of infected themselves and their families.
During the outbreak of any pandemic, the psychological reactions of the population play a crucial role in shaping occurrence of emotional distress, social disorder, and the spread of the disease. The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the mental health of both the general population and healthcare workers. Some COVID-19-assosiated factors contributing to mental health include containment measures, such as lockdowns and restrictions on social gatherings, uncertainty and unpredictability of the disease and its impact on likelihood, and direct impact of the disease due to job losses, loss of loved ones, stigma, mandatory isolations, and quarantines.
Moreno, C., Wykes, T., Galderisi, S., Nordentoft, M., Crossley, N., Jones, N., ... & Arango, C. (2020). How mental health care should change as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lancet Psychiatry.
Schäfer, S. K., Sopp, M. R., Schanz, C. G., Staginnus, M., Göritz, A. S., & Michael, T. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on public mental health and the buffering effect of a sense of coherence. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 89(6), 386-392.
Semo, B. W., & Frissa, S. M. (2020). The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: Implications for sub-Saharan Africa. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 13, 713.
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