Mental Health Issues during Pandemic
The novel coronavirus is a highly infectious disease that started spreading from the month of February 2020 in India and since then has impacted the whole nation adversely. The government had to take strict measures of a nationwide lockdown in order to curtail the spread of coronavirus. The situation became very challenging for our country as people experienced social isolation, death of loved ones, health issues, financial/job losses, etc. which was never seen before on such a large scale. Even with the lockdown and all possible measures, the number of COVID-19 cases kept rising, and sadly the death rate too (March-November 2020). Thereafter, there was a dip in the number of cases (November 2020). Also, in January 2021 vaccinations were introduced bringing a ray of hope to the situation. However, from March 2021 the situation worsened and there was a surge in the number of cases. Hence, uncertainty and ambiguity prevailed throughout last year and still continues to impact people’s wellbeing negatively.
The effects of COVID-19 on people’s mental health were tremendous which are discussed further.
1) Stigma - The stigma of being affected by COVID has a grave impact on the mental health of people. Initially, the pandemic not only created stress but, negative attitudes and beliefs for the infected individuals thus, discriminating against them like others (Bhattacharya et al., 2020). Even now, the stigma prevails but to a very low degree. Over the span of one year, people have become aware that if infected, will take a fortnight to become alright. However, with the second wave of COVID-19 (variant) people have again become unsure and the stigma continues thus, impacting our mental and emotional health drastically (Bagchhi, 2020).
2) Stress and Restlessness - Since the year 2020, we all are trapped in the downward spiral of seemingly endless uncertainty along with adversaries such as the death of loved ones, job/financial losses, health issues, etc. As human beings, we yearn for security and safety, however, these unprecedented times brought the strangest situation which is way out of control. Due to this people are experiencing immense stress and restlessness. The new wave of COVID-19 has brought with it restlessness and unsettling emotions among people (Hagger et al., 2020).
3) Eating and Sleeping Issues – One of the biggest risks the pandemic brought with it is a change in the lifestyles of people. We all are forced to stay at home most of the time which has made our lives more sedentary than before. Accompanied with fear and worry about uncertainty, it has led to changes in the biological and circadian rhythms of individuals. This has caused disturbances in our eating and sleeping habits. Each individual responds differently to the overwhelming situation – some tend to binge eat and sleep whereas, others completely deprive themselves of both (Silva et al., 2020).
4) Anxiety and Compulsions – This large-scale outbreak of coronavirus has made people fearful and anxious about their present and future. Somewhere in the subconscious mind lies constant worry in people that have increased anxiety and compulsions. It has become common that people perceive COVID threats throughout day and night, wherever they are. Increasing compulsive behaviors such as repeated washing, cleaning, sanitizing, etc. have become daily routine activities (Jelinek et al., 2021).
5) Depression and Frustration – Stagnation and isolation are synonyms to the pandemic which has caused distress and depression among people. Sadness, worry, feelings of helplessness, and hopelessness have become common since last year (Notivol et al., 2020). Depression has increased among all age groups including, older adults and children. Studies also reveal that suicide rates, tendencies for self-harm, and substance use have also risen tremendously (Masih, 2020).
6) Technology addiction – Social distancing and self-isolation have majorly caused extensive use of technology such as online studies/work, virtual celebrations, online gaming/shopping/events (marathon, yoga, aerobics, etc.)/watching shows (Netflix, AmazonPrime, etc.). Everything became technology-oriented as it was and still is the need of the hour. We know that technology is important as it provides us with knowledge and information however, this pandemic hassled to the overuse of technology across all age groups (Sahni and Sharma, 2020). Children have got hooked to the internet and other social media platforms to an extent that their world revolves only around it. This has also led to various psychological problems such as attention/concentration issues, alexithymia (dysfunction in emotional expression, interpersonal relation and experience detachment), etc., and other biological concerns as well such as strain in the eyes, headache, etc. (Lin, 2020).
The effects of COVID can also be seen in other areas of our life – work, education, relationships, entertainment, etc. Clarity and certainty are out of reach and ambiguity to have become an important part of our lives. Due to the virtual nature of work/education, it has become more stressful than ever and has created a lot of confusion in these two spheres. Another added source of stress during the pandemic is managing relationships especially, romantic relationships as people have become more critical of each other. Also, boredom and too much time together have led to relationship issues. Lastly, we cannot ignore the mental health issues (stress, depression, sleeplessness, etc.) of front-line workers such as, doctors, other health workers, police, and others who have tirelessly been working day and night to fight the pandemic.
Due to the urgency of the current pandemic, mental health issues among people have taken a backseat. Also, studies show that psychiatric care has reduced since last year which brings into attention the importance of bringing change in the current mental health system with the continuing effects of the pandemic.
- Bagcchi, S. (2020). Stigma during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lancet. Infectious Diseases, 20(7), 782.
- Bhattacharya, P., Banerjee, D., & Rao, T. S. (2020). The “untold” side of COVID-19: Social stigma and its consequences in India. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 42(4), 382-386.
- Bueno-Notivol, J., Gracia-García, P., Olaya, B., Lasheras, I., López-Antón, R., & Santabárbara, J. (2021). Prevalence of depression during the COVID-19 outbreak: A meta-analysis of community-based studies. International journal of clinical and health psychology, 21(1), 100196.
- da Silva, F. R., Junior, A. H. L., Brant, V. M., Lôbo, I. L. B., Lancha, L. O. P., Silva, A., & de Mello, M. T. (2020). The effects of COVID-19 quarantine on eating and sleeping behaviors. Nutrire, 45(2), 1-4.
- Dalal, P. K., Roy, D., Choudhary, P., Kar, S. K., & Tripathi, A. (2020). Emerging mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic: An Indian perspective. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 62(Suppl 3), S354.
- Hagger, M. S., Keech, J. J., & Hamilton, K. (2020). Managing stress during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and beyond: Reappraisal and mindset approach. Stress and Health, 36(3), 396-401.
- Jelinek, L., Moritz, S., Miegel, F., & Voderholzer, U. (2021). Obsessive-compulsive disorder during COVID-19: Turning a problem into an opportunity?. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 77, 102329.
- Lin, M. P. (2020). Prevalence of internet addiction during the covid-19 outbreak and its risk factors among junior high school students in Taiwan. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(22), 8547.
- Masih, J. (2020). Mental health and Depression during COVID-19. Journal of Depression and Anxiety.
- Sahni, H., & Sharma, H. (2020). Role of social media during the COVID-19 pandemic: Beneficial, destructive, or reconstructive?. International Journal of Academic Medicine, 6(2), 70.