It is gradually approaching three years since the deadly COVID-19 virus swept through the world, bringing fear and panic and leaving behind millions of infected and dead persons in its wake. 2020 was the year that facemasks and hand sanitizers became necessary accessories. Distance became a significant issue as families and friends worldwide were separated during the lockdown, and that year also birthed the various conspiracy theories on the COVID-19 virus.
The COVID-19 virus’ spread has been contained to a level where the closest thing to normal has been restored. Unfortunately, a part of our lives that continues to be affected years later by the virus is our mental health. The pandemic wave has closely linked COVID-19 and mental health because, during that period, it was not just the world nations’ economies that dealt a huge blow. It was also our health—our mental health—against the virus.
The COVID-19 global pandemic inflicted damage on the primary functional sectors that the world ran on, including the economic, transportation, industrial, educational, and health sector. Numerous people were laid down from their jobs, students from their schools, and those who had the pass to continue their work, such as nurses, doctors, and other health workers, battled with the possibility of contracting the virus. There were reports of people who were unfortunately trapped in a foreign city when the lockdown was declared. With airports shut down, these people had to spend weeks—if not months—away from their family and other familiar faces. In contrast, others lost their livelihood and sources of income.
A distinctive common trait that rapidly spread worldwide along with the virus was accompanying stress. This stress came from different factors, such as being locked in for a long time. There were various cases of people who had no physical contact for months because they lived alone and had to make do with voice and video calls to communicate with their loved ones. Some others had to battle stress because of the lack of jobs. It was especially difficult for people that had others to cater for. COVID-19 stress played a prominent role in the dwindling mental health stability of the pandemic’s survivors.
Chronic stress has long been identified as a vital factor that increases the risks of mental health diseases and illnesses, including anxiety and depression, insomnia, bipolar disorder, substance use problems, and many others. The most common causes of stress include familial issues, work, financial situations, personal relationships, and overthinking, all of which happened in abundance during the pandemic.
As estimated by statistics, about 114 million people lost their jobs and sources of income due to the pandemic; countless businesses had to shut down due to the lockdown, and a UK-based family firm reported a 95% increase in divorce rates. School children reportedly lost approximately 1.8 trillion hours of education, with nearly 800 million young adults and teenagers put out of schools and colleges, among many other devastating losses.
These, along with other factors, had people overthinking and slipping into depression, their hopes dwindling as the virus raged and the lockdown remained day after day. While some people could adapt and remain unaffected mentally, others were not as strong and thus suffered.
The World Health Organisation reported a rise in suicide rates, self-harm thoughts, and relapse of mental illnesses due to fear of the virus, and many others among people of various age groups and gender, ranging from the elderly to teenagers and even children. Early this year, a 25% increase in depression and anxiety worldwide was reported by the WHO, urging countries to “step up mental health services and support.”
Since the lockdown was eased and the vaccine discovery, life has been made easier. However, there are still thousands of people who are struggling with one form of mental illness or the other, and it is not spoken about enough. That is why there needs to be more mental health awareness because that is one aspect that affects our overall health.