Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health

Kathmandu, April 21 :-  COVID 19 pandemic has caused a sudden impact on all of us. The power of this fallout is evident across continents and has not just affected the lives of people but also our mental being.

Humans are social animals who have been sent into self-isolation. The impact is not just related to health and economy but this process makes us all vulnerable to mental illness.    

People have adjusted to social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks but an insecurity thrives in them. They do not know how long this lock down will last. They all ask themselves ‘is corona going to go away’.   

A survey carried out in Italy revealed that people are facing difficulties in staying home without fresh air, physical exercise, social activity and a job.

World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning that the restrictive measures taken by nations can have a negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Isolation from work, schools and work places affects us all and it will naturally start a process of anxiety and depression. Some extreme cases have already come into learning.    

Emily Owen, a British teenager committed suicide because she was afraid of isolation. She was an autistic and before her suicide she was quoted saying ‘more people will die of suicide than corona’.

Similarly, there have been reports that few nurses have committed suicide because they were traumatized to see the loss of lives and because of the stress they were in.    

Apart from the people locked down in their homes the medical personal, security agencies and people working 18 hrs a day are at highest risk, and if they collapse, we will lose against corona. These people expose themselves to high physical and physiological stress.

These conditions release excessive cortisol and leptin, with altered dopamine and other neurotransmitters. In turn, they are not just exposed to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety but also other conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and endocrine problems. Depression and anxiety has affected all of us locked down in homes.    

Many people have lost their jobs and many ask, will things be normal in near future? The economic insecurity is also adding to mental illness. Not all of us but just a few can have the luxury of affording a 2 months lock down comfortably.

News of desperations are being shown on TV channels and media is showing corona news 24/7. All we see is catastrophes in China, Italy, France, USA and elsewhere. To make things worse our fear grows stronger when we learn that China is preparing for a second wave.    

Government agencies are working to contain and diagnose COVID-19, amidst this it’s very difficult to provide our scant resources to address the mental issues. All we hear is instructions and nobody tells us what we can do from home. Agencies should encourage communication.

Two incidents came to my notice by which people feel they are not left alone in their homes. In UK everyone was in their balcony lighting lights for their exhausted the health works, showing solidarity and support. In India, millions of people made sounds with kitchen utensils and lighted lights in their balcony to scare corona away. This is done to uplift the spirits of people locked down in homes and the most important message is the realization within that ‘I am not alone’.    

People are well aware of COVID-19 and know what not to do. Now is the time to tell them what to do. Media should not just flood our brains with Covid news but also show programs that are entertaining and of self-help.

Telemedicine via social platforms is a good option to seek a psychiatric consultation. Engaging in activities such as listening to music, singing, doing exercise shall keep our spirits uplifted.

I would also suggest them, not to watch too much of Covid 19 news and face book, which doesn’t verify the validity of information spread on its pages. Make calls to your loved ones, have meetings on social media and have the faith in yourself that this is just another difficult time where mankind is being tested, and we will prevail over corona.

Every hospital has provided numbers of their doctors, it’s time to reach out to a psychiatrist if you are feeling lonely and vulnerable at your homes and seek a consult on phone.    

[Dr. Singh is Interventional Neurologist, HOD Neurology, Vayodha Hospital, Kathmandu, Nepal (Email [email protected], 9861770401)]