Currently, mental health is one of the most significant medical and social issues, which has become even more critical during the spread of the new coronavirus infection COVID-19. In conditions of uncertainty, fear of contracting and becoming seriously ill, the need to comply with the restrictions, and the risk of losing their jobs, the majority of the population feels the negative impact of the pandemic on their mental state. Many people experience anxiety, stress, and manifestations of depression. Failure to address this problem can lead to serious long-term mental health consequences. This is especially true in the context of economic instability, which endangers people’s lives and is closely related to the well-being of the population.
In mental health care, the primary psychological consequences of the pandemic today are high stress and anxiety levels. However, as new anti-epidemic measures are introduced and other related changes, “mental health experts forecast dramatic increases in substance use and mental health conditions” (Horigian et al. 1). The measures introduced primarily include quarantine, which affects people’s usual activities, their daily life. The self-isolation regime and actions to prevent the spread of infection assumed compliance with the following rules. It was necessary to exclude contacts with family members, friends, and other people in general. People were to purchase groceries and supplies online and use personal protective equipment and disinfectants.
The pandemic for the first time in history has led to global isolation. Studies and polls show that news flow, the regime of restrictions and uncertainty, primarily financial, provoke the development of mental disorders in the population. Scientists agree that the COVID-19 virus harms patients mental health who have not even had mental illness before. Every third patient who has undergone a coronavirus infection suffers from a mental or nervous disorder “in the 6 months following a COVID-19 diagnosis” (Taquet et al. 416). An extensive study conducted by the authoritative medical journal The Lancet systematized the available observations and ideas about the impact of coronavirus on the mental health of people.
Specialists tested them for the presence of consequences in the form of 14 different nervous dysfunctions six months after they were diagnosed with the disease. The most common mental disorders were anxiety disorder (in 17% of those who had recovered) and affective disorder (14%) (Taquet et al. 419). At the same time, for 13% of patients, diagnoses associated with mental or nervous disorders were made for the first time (Taquet et al. 419). It also turned out that “most diagnostic categories were more common in patients who had COVID-19” (Taquet et al. 2016) than in those who had other respiratory diseases. However, the self-isolation regime cannot be considered the only cause of the outbreak of psychological problems. Much depends on the individual characteristics of people, on how stable they felt before introducing special measures related to the pandemic.
The prevailing epidemiological situation in the world has led to the spread of fear of missing out on society. It lies in the fact that people want “to stay continually connected with what others are doing” (Gioia et al. 2). This condition is accompanied by a negative impact on mental health. It is expressed in anxiety, stress, irritability, bad mood, feelings of resentment, auto-aggression, and guilt (Gioia et al. 2). This leads to a drop in self-esteem and depression, which can provoke a decrease in immunity and the development of various diseases. Moreover, introducing restrictive measures, isolation, and economic problems associated with a pandemic can increase the risk of relapse due to the higher sensitivity to stress, which is characteristic of patients with mental disorders (Pedrosa et al. 1). However, mental health is affected not only by anxiety about possible infection, quarantine, and isolation. The consequences associated with the social sphere and unemployment also play a considerable role. It should be understood that these outcomes can also occur in the long term.
In persons who have had coronavirus, the mental state worsened significantly, and depression and insomnia have become more frequent. At the same time, the last two disorders were more common in young patients (Lu et al. 1223), and women suffered more from anxiety and depression than men (Thibaut et al. 2). Moreover, it was found that severe symptoms of infection such as fever, cough, and treatment side effects such as insomnia can lead to increased anxiety. The latter, in turn, “exerts detrimental effects on subjective health and well-being” (Chen et al. 1). Difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakening at night, and reduced need for sleep when a person wakes up earlier, even before the alarm clock, are signs for seeking medical attention. In this case, special attention is required when these symptoms cause anxiety in the patient.
Recovery from a pandemic will not be possible without prioritizing mental health promotion across the whole of society. Timely and quality delivery of the full range of comprehensive and integrated mental health and psychological support services is an essential component for achieving country-specific health coverage (Zhang et al. 1). Such actions should include raising mental health “awareness among the general population and policy-makers to facilitate change” (Stangl et al., 2019). Prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation, and follow-up care with respect for human rights and dignity are also needed.
The use of innovative technologies, including remote mental health services, ensuring equitable access to telemedicine and other cost-effective technologies is promising in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its long-term consequences. The use of telemedicine in the field of mental health can remove many physical and moral barriers, make specialized care not only accessible but also comfortable, and minimize the costs to patients (Reay et al. 514). In general, the mental health sector has been underfunded globally for many years; therefore, the authorities need to “increase funding for mental health” (Bernhard et al. 1). Moreover, the allocation of adequate funds is necessary to improve it and expand access to all those in need, especially in the light of preparedness for possible new emergencies.
If people were simply afraid of catching an infection at the beginning of the pandemic, now many have fatigue, irritability, and a feeling of confusion. Against this background, the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases may increase in older people (Yu et al. 1). The virus can become a trigger mechanism not only for mental illnesses but also for bodily ones. After all, “mental diseases and CHD appear to have a shared etiology” (De Hert et al. 31). Access to accurate and truthful information, including advice on vaccination, is critical, as the vaccine is the only way out of the crisis. At the same time, the most significant responsibility in this process belongs to the authorities, which need to act following the requirements imposed on them by the people.
Governments of countries need to listen to the opinion of authoritative organizations in the field of health when developing and implementing legislative initiatives to improve mental health among the population during the coronavirus period. For instance, the World Health Organization has developed several recommendations for the general population. They include advice on how to keep mental health better. One of the recommendations is to “maintain familiar routines in daily life” (World Health Organization), allocating enough time for both rest and work. Another recommendation is to dose information about COVID-19 and all the related issues intelligently. Indeed, people need to be informed, but data from reliable sources such as local health authorities should be preferred. Ways of coping with stress that does not add to the health but harm it, such as alcohol and tobacco, should be avoided. For instance, video games themselves can be an excellent pastime, but when they take up most of the time, they can undoubtedly increase health risks rather than improve it.
Thus, the coronavirus epidemic has caused significant negative consequences for the mental health of the population. It is now essential for world leaders to recognize the importance of channeling additional efforts to reach people at higher risk and those in a vulnerable state. Doctors strongly recommend in case of unmotivated vigilance, anxiety, aggression, memory impairments, depressed or depressive moods, or deterioration of attention, not to wait for more severe problems, but immediately seek help from specialists. In addition, to cope with anxiety, experts advise maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating right, playing sports, and communicating more with family and friends. However, meetings with loved ones should only take place if permitted by state regulations.
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