Linda Huang / Staff reporter
The COVID-19 pandemic is entering the second year. This fast-spreading virus has caused significant infections in many countries. The negative impacts include millions of deaths, economic strife and those unprecedented curbs on social interaction, which can affect people’s mental health.
According to Julia Ries’s article “People with COVID-19 More Likely to Develop Depression, Anxiety, and Dementia” in Healthline, “nearly 20 percent of COVID-19 patients developed a mental health issue within 3 months of diagnosis. Doctors have long suspected that COVID-19 was linked to higher rates of mental health problems.”
This means COVID-19 can possibly result in psychological issues due to both pandemic stress and the physical effects of the disease. People who are diagnosed with COVID-19 may be under huge stress while they are also suffering from symptoms of the virus of varying degrees.
Since it’s the first time that everyone has experienced such a large-scale global epidemic, it’s easier for patients to accumulate their anxiety and helplessness in their hearts, which may eventually affect their mental health.
The population struggling with mental health issues remains high as the pandemic continues. This includes many self-reported symptoms among millions of people who are suffering emotionally as a consequence of COVID-19.
Some people who had been mentally healthy also start to experience mental break down. As reported in Alisson Abbott’s article “COVID’s mental-health toll: how scientists are tracking a surge in depression” in Nature, “more than 42% of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression in December, an increase from 11% the previous year.”
Different age groups in our society may be facing similar mental health problems caused by different types of stress and anxiety.
For adults, the long-term lockdown and the economic depression caused by the epidemic may increase their psychological burden. Many of them can experience a new onset of or an increase in one or more symptoms of anxiety or depression.
Many students, especially in colleges and high schools, are already struggling with anxiety, depression and loneliness due to the heavy schoolwork. And students’ struggles have only been exacerbated as the pandemic goes on. The video “How the pandemic is impacting college students’ mental health” by PBS NewsHour states that “the string of recent crises, combined with an overreliance on technology and social media, are making today’s young people more anxious than ever before. And COVID isolation has made it worse.” Since students are one of the largest age groups who need a tribe, the lockdown can negatively impact their mental health and spiritual health.
“College seems like a really far away concept right now. It’s hard to sleep at night because you just sit in your apartment all day. Almost all of my friends started to go to therapy since this semester.” Said Alex Patrick-Rodriguez, a college student at the University of Michigan.
It’s likely that COVID can have a strong impact on students. Everyone should carefully monitor the long-term psychological effects the pandemic may have on children and adolescents.
However, not only students but also people who established psychiatric diagnoses during the pandemic may be experiencing a serious, pandemic-related exacerbation of their illness. They may require immediate treatment or refinement of their current treatment.
In Dr. Ronald W. Pies’ article “Is the Country Experiencing a Mental Health Pandemic?” in Psychiatric Times, it indicated “care and treatment of these seriously affected individuals should be our priority. And we must remain vigilant regarding the enormous physical and emotional toll the pandemic is taking on our physicians, nurses, and other frontline health care workers.”
Instead of letting this situation get worse, people could monitor their mental health effectively. Methods such as telephone counselling services with emergency helplines have been used.
“The distress in the pandemic probably stems from people’s limited social interactions, tensions among families in lockdown together and fear of illness,” said psychiatrist Marcella Rietschel at the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany.
With this being said, people with mental health problems will need to find the correct path that leads them from grief or despair to healing. One of the ways is to try different things to relax the brain and reduce mental stress.
Switching to a healthier lifestyle can reduce stress levels. Try to eat healthy meals every day and do more physical activities. This can secrete dopamine and activate the whole body’s energy. Meditation and breathing exercises are also great ways for people to take a few moments to organize thoughts and address challenges they are facing. Stay connected to life and relationships, stay informed, and try to disperse from mental distress.
Many scientists are now investigating the causes and impacts of the stress by reading survey responses and hope to get information about how people are responding psychologically and socially to the pandemic in real time.
“Together, this information will tell us how government policies are experienced across different segments of societies and will help us understand how we should manage this pandemic and future pandemic,” says Nazroo, who is participating in the European Union-wide Survey on Health, Aging and Retirement in Europe cohort.
Eventually, scientists and doctors can use the data collected in studies about mental health to link the impact of particular control measures to changes in people’s well-being and to inform the management of future pandemics.