Mental Health in COVID Times

Dr T K Munshi
It is not a mental riddle to forecast that the COVID-19 pandemic would devastate mental health, illness or fear of illness, social isolation, economic insecurity, disruption of routine and loss of loved ones. Such are the known risk factors for depression and anxiety. Latest studies have confirmed the predictions and it’s effects on both the old and the young people.
A report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found a tripling of anxiety symptoms and a quadrupling of depression among 5,470 adults surveyed, compared with a 2019 sample data. Similarly, two surveys conducted much earlier by the Boston School of Public Health and another at Johns Hopkins University, found that the prevalence of depressive symptoms and serious psychological distress were triple the level measured in 2018. These rates were much higher than seen after other large-scale traumas like Hurricanes and tremors elsewhere. The most affected groups in these studies were people who had pre-existing mental health issues, low-income individuals, people of color, and those close to someone who suffered or died from COVID-19.
An unexpected finding, across myriad surveys, was the outsized toll on young adults. In the Center for Disease Control survey, 63 percent of 18 to 24 year olds reported an anxiety or depressive disorder, a quarter said they were using more drugs and alcohol to cope with pandemic-related stress, and a quarter said they had seriously considered suicide in the previous 30 days. Young adults were also the most affected age group that involved rapid rise in acute distress and depression within a period from mid-March to April-end., though older individuals were at greater risk.
A psychologist, Roxane Silver at the California University, believes that young people may have more disruption in life events, like graduations, weddings, senior year of college and of high school.. All those transitions were disrupted, as well as school and social connections, which are believed to be most important for youngsters. One major contributor to anxiety for people of all ages, Silver believes, is: increased engagement with media coverage of the pandemic outbreak, a known risk factor causing mental distress. Silver and her team who investigate mass trauma have suggested keeping mental equilibrium in challenging times amid the fallout of unforeseen disasters and events. Silver and her team suggest maintaining social contacts – via Zoom, phone or other COVID-safe methods. Unlike any other disaster that James Pennebaker of Texas University has studied, believes people are less close to friends and community. Fewer hugs and less shared grieving may explain why people do not seem to be adjusting to the new normal. “This is not 9/11 or an earthquake, where something big happens, and we all get back to normal pretty quickly.” His main tips are to maintain healthy sleep, exercise, food and drink habits. Keep a journal and a few magazines handy. Research shows that expressive writing helps people process difficult emotions. He says: “If you’re worrying about COVID too much, try writing about it.”
Economic devastation caused by a global epidemic is vivid and visible, both in the East and the West. Millions of jobs have been lost in India, Europe and America to the pandemic, besides millions of thriving businesses have been closed around the globe. Maintaining average households besides below poverty lives in underdeveloped countries has turned into a colossal problem for the ensuing year ’21. It’s surmised that crime situation amid poverty stricken under developed countries will escalate with each passing day as an aftermath of the uncontrolled pandemic. Even the mass vaccination around the globe may not yield the expected results for the next 9 months, as opined by the experts. A divine miracle alone can help our human race.