The negative secondary outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic are already here — economic fallout, poverty, social stigma, xenophobia, mental stress, suicide, and so on.
On the 28th of March, we woke up to the shocking news of Thomas Schaefer, committing suicide by the railway track. The departed finance minister of Hesse state, Germany, was anxious about the economic crisis that the country will suffer due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Similar cases are on the rise in poor and developing countries as well. Several people in India and Bangladesh committed suicide — being unable to grapple with the mental suffering, fear, social avoidance, and poverty caused by the coronavirus.
The medical experts believe that the virus contagion will lead to an increasing rate of mental and behavioral illness among the people quarantined and in self-isolation.
Quarantine and Isolation Can Affect Your Mental Health
Humans are primarily social beings. The present global scenario with billions of people in quarantine or lockdown situations comes as a massive challenge for humanity. There’s looming emotional distress being created at the individual and communal level since the outbreak of the pandemic. Factors that are responsible for this growing mental anxiety and stress are:
- Uncertainty of COVID-19 prognosis,
- Fear of death of loved ones and one’s own,
- Lack of essential medical resources — testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators, enough health care providers, etc.
- Public health measures — lockdown, quarantine, isolation, etc. are unfamiliar to the general people. These can take a toll on individual freedom.
- Closures of work and educational institutions,
- Inadequate and deficient distribution of daily necessities,
- Unable to cope with unemployment, financial loss, the shutdown of small scale businesses.
- Being exposed to rumors, fake news, and conflicting messages propagated by many agencies in social media.
- Irregular sleeping, eating, and working patterns at home.
- Excessive use of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to kill time.
Children and older people with underlying chronic diseases may react more intensely during this time of crisis. People with a history of mental disorders and substance use may also be severely affected.
How to Take Care of Mental Health During the Pandemic?
COVID-19 pandemic has put us into an unprecedented scenario. Global viral contagion and its severe repercussions — stay at home order, quarantine, isolations, lockdown, etc. are all new and baffling to us. We have to find ways and means to manage our mental health during this crisis.
Directives for the general people:
- If you are working from home — stick to a schedule and get enough rest between the work shifts.
- Get plenty of sleep. 7-8 hours of sleep can boost your immunity.
- Have sufficient and nutritious foods.
- Make time for physical activity or exercises at least 30 minutes a day.
- Try to do some new activities to unwind yourself. You can harness your skills and hobbies, such as painting, singing, dancing, writing, and so on.
- Practice yoga, meditation, or other mindfulness exercises.
- If you are a believer, daily prayers can help you become strong mentally.
- Spend quality time with family.
- Stay connected with relatives, neighbors, and friends using social media, video conferences, and so on.
- You may feel the urge to drink, smoke, or use other substances to cope up with the mental stress imposed by COVID-19. However, such behaviors may have negative implications in the long term, both mentally and physically. Keep away or minimize the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other kinds of drugs, etc.
- Use only verified news outlets to get the information and news about COVID-19. Fake news and rumors can make you more anxious and stressed.
Directives for the parents with children and teens:
- Make sure your children and teens can express or communicate their feelings during this crisis. You should talk to them about the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that they can understand it. Try to answer their questions in a supportive manner and reassure them that everything is going to be alright.
- You need to plan a daily routine for the family. The regular schedule shall keep the children productively engaged in various activities and, at the same time, give them enough personal freedom.
- A non-stop stream of news regarding the death toll and contagion of COVID-19 can generate fear and depression. You need to make sure that your children have limited exposure to the news.
- Children and teens can be motivated to develop new skills, e,g; learning a new language, playing a musical instrument, cooking, gardening, etc.
- Socialize with friends and relatives over the internet and try to involve your children as well. Human contact, even if virtually, can relieve mental stress.
- Children tend to observe and imitate the behaviors of adults. You need to be a role model for them. Try to be exemplary — maintain a daily schedule, eat well, take enough rest, exercise, do productive activities, etc.
Get Help From a Therapist
While you’re doing everything possible to keep yourself calm and happy, the situation might get worse. In that case, it’s essential to seek help from a therapist. However, going to a counselor will be expensive and challenging during this pandemic.
Some online platforms are providing therapy through a website or telephone which can be more convenient and cost-effective. However, before you begin therapy, find out if your health insurance can cover the cost of this therapy.
Epidemiologists suggest that mental and behavioral illnesses are the next wave of coronavirus pandemic implications. The contagion has already generated mental stress and depression among quarantined people around the world.
The prospect of living under restrictions with extreme measures in maintaining social distance can be overwhelming. The worries regarding how this virus will play out in the long run, and how long we need to be locked down can be frustrating. Moreover, People are afraid of death, unemployment, economic fallout, lack of medical resources, and so on — all due to the viral outbreak.
The children, elders, and people with the underlying physical illness are most vulnerable to cope with this crisis. Also, people with a history of mental illness need extra attention in dealing with the mental turmoil that the pandemic has to offer. Parents and adults can follow the directives proposed by WHO to maintain psychological health during the COVID-19 crisis. It is recommended that you call your health service providers when stress gets in your way and affects your life for an extended period.