Impact of COVID-19 On Mental Health

Updated: Jul 25



Author: Mouayad Masalkhi

All strata of society have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Impatience, depression, and domestic violence are a few of the various neuropsychiatric manifestations of self-isolation and uncertainty of the future.

In May of 2020, the United Nations (UN) outlined how individuals with the most risk were front-line healthcare workers, younger people (15-29 years old) and older people (65 years and older) in a report titled, ‘Policy Brief: COVID-19 and the Need for Action on Mental Health’ [1].

Healthcare workers continue to treat patients…while facing dreadful risks such as being infected themselves…their colleagues…and inevitably their family members”

What causes the mental health of healthcare workers to be impacted?

The rapid global spread of the novel coronavirus has pushed governments in a race against the clock as they had to — and continue to — work under immense pressure to contain the virus and develop policies and strategies that aim to maintain the fabric of society. The exponential rise of cases has directly challenged front-line healthcare workers in every imaginable way — physically, mentally, and emotionally. With COVID-19 patients flooding through emergency departments and an increasing scarcity for hospital beds, healthcare staff experience elevated levels of stress as they struggle to provide the quality medical care that they were trained to provide.

Healthcare workers continue to treat patients in chaotic hospital environments while facing dreadful risks such as being infected themselves, infecting their colleagues, and inevitably their family members. The possibility of caring for ill colleagues along with patients further perturbs the staff’s emotional state, and their ability to make sound judgments — which is arguably their most crucial asset during these desperate times.

The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has proven to be a major challenge for healthcare staff.

Face masks and shields that cover most of the face have made nonverbal communication more difficult [2]. In addition, the profound scarcity of PPE places immense risk on the lives of workers and patients alike, of which WHO estimates that a 40% increase in production is needed to meet global demand [3].

It is no surprise to witness forms of depression, burn-out, and despair amongst healthcare workers. Research by Walton et al. has shown that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is at 9.6% in resuscitation providers, and as the situation worsens in some countries such as the USA, it is possible for this figure to rise [4].

Older patients and COVID-19

According to the WHO, data from April 2020 shows that 95% of deaths due to COVID-19 were found among individuals over 60 years of age [5]. The existence of underlying conditions such as respiratory, cardiovascular, and weakened immunity in older people predisposes them to a more physically challenging fight against the virus [6].

loneliness and isolation are ‘two of the greatest health risks for older people today'”

However, the mental status of older individuals has equally been – if not more – impacted during this pandemic. A report from ALONE (an organization that supports older adults) highlights such detrimental impacts [7]. ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan emphasizes that loneliness and isolation are “two of the greatest health risks for older people today” [7].

From negative emotions and loneliness to suicidal thoughts, many older people are struggling to cope with unprecedented measures and protocols that limit their routine activities such as moving outside the house and visiting loved ones.

How the mental health of children has been impacted by COVID-19

Children have been hit hard psychosocially by this pandemic. With schools shut down and quarantine measures enforced, it has been a challenge for children to cope with remaining indoors for extended periods. Rising levels of distress and impatience in children go hand-in-hand with increasing incidences of domestic violence and child abuse [8].

For those students who continue to pursue online studies, it has been quite challenging to balance a drastic shift of routine with upcoming exams, adding to their stress levels. “Now that schools are closed, some lock themselves up inside their rooms for weeks, refusing to take showers, eat, or leave their beds” says clinical psychologist Zanonia Chiu [9]. With such a wide range of behavioural changes seen in students due to stress and lockdown, it is essential for students and their parents to acknowledge such behavioural symptoms early and try to evade further deterioration (for example seeking therapy, maintaining safe social interactions, etc.).

Editors

Rhea Verma & Hadeel Alhadi

Designer

Richard Chen & Majd Al-Aarg

Additional Credits

Header Image by Nik Shuliahin @tjump from Unsplash

Image 1: by Jonathan Borba @jonathanborba from Unsplash

Image 2: by Nani Chevez @nanichevez from Unsplash

Image 3: by Maxwell Nelson @maxcodes from Unsplash

References

  1. unsdg.un.org/ [Internet]. London (UK): World Health Organization; 2020 May 13; [cited 2020 Aug 10]. Available: https://unsdg.un.org/sites/default/files/2020-05/UN-Policy-Brief-COVID-19-and-mental-health.pdf

  2. Schlögl M. Maintaining our humanity through the mask: mindful communication during COVID-19. The American Geriatrics Society [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Aug 10]; 68:E12-E13. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/jgs.16488

  3. who.int/ [Internet]. Geneva (CH): World Health Organization; 2020. Shortage of personal protective equipment endangering health workers worldwide; 2020 Mar 3 [cited 2020 Aug 10]. Available: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/03-03-2020-shortage-of-personal-protective-equipment-endangering-health-workers-worldwide

  4. Walton M, Murray E, Christian M. Mental health care for medical staff and affiliated healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care [Internet]. 2020 Apr 28 [cited 2020 Aug 10];9(3):241-247. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1177/2048872620922795

  5. Kluge HP [Internet]. Copenhagen (DK): World Health Organization; 2020. Statement – Older people are at highest risk from COVID-19, but all must act to prevent community spread; 2020 Apr 2 [cited 2020 Aug 10]. Available: https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/statements/statement-older-people-are-at-highest-risk-from-covid-19,-but-all-must-act-to-prevent-community-spread

  6. Adler S [Internet]. California (US): American Association of Retired Persons; 2020. Why coronavirus hits older adults hardest; 2020 Mar 14 [cited 2020 Aug 12]. Available: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/coronavirus-severe-seniors.html

  7. Condon D [Internet]. Irish Health; 2020. Loneliness a major issue during pandemic; Jul 15 [cited 2020 Aug 10]. Available: http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=27356

  8. Ghosh R, Dubey M, Chatterjee S, Dubey S. Impact of COVID-19 on children: special focus on the psychosocial aspect. Minerva Pediatrica [Internet]. 2020 Jun [cited 10 Aug 2020];72(3). Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32613821/

  9. Lee J. Mental health effects of school closures during COVID-19. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health [Internet]. 2020 Apr 14 [cited 10 Aug 2020];4(6):421. Available from: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(20)30109-7/fulltext

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