Explained: Why mental health took a turn for the worse with Covid-19

In 2020, WHO estimated that 1.53 million people died from suicide, representing one death every 20 seconds



By Shajar Khan

Published: Wed 27 Oct 2021, 7:22 PM

Last updated: Wed 27 Oct 2021, 9:01 PM

Globally, mental health issues worsened dramatically in 2020 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Maliha Hasham Sable, founder and director at The Healthy Mind; Mental Health Clinician, discusses how Covid-19 has impacted mental health, the rise in suicide rates and the road to recovery.

How is Covid-19 affecting mental health?

During Covid-19, fear has commonly spread amongst the world's population and it has led to a sudden rise in various symptoms associated with mental illness.

For many, stress levels have increased due to several contributing factors that acts as an underlying risk to various mental disorders. People in quarantine and isolation are affected by increasing loneliness, anxiety, worry, nervousness and insomnia.

Similarly, Covid-19 patients experience a sudden rise in mental health symptoms due to their underlying conditions, causing delirium, agitation, stroke, separation from loved ones and fear associated with the Covid-19. We have seen changes in the world's economy by far, leading to increased financial stress in the worldly population.

What are some of the mental health challenges after Covid-19 recovery?

Through the Covid-19 recovery, it becomes difficult to cope with the mental health symptoms of the illness quickly.

People might find it difficult to work productively right after the recovery. They might develop anxiety, depression, PTSD, with difficulty in concentration and memory. Seeking mental health support at the earliest helps in timely diagnosis and quality treatment to reduce the mental health challenges and risk of several mental disorders.

What are some of the challenges of mental health during a lockdown?

Mental health challenges can be seen from children to adults and the elderly, with their feeling of loneliness and an increase in the level of aggression and frustration, sleeplessness and or sleeping more than usual.

Poor adaption to sudden changes in daily functioning has increased stress amongst individuals from all age groups, which has reported significant risks of depression, anxiety, drug misuse, addictions, and other mental disorders.

Has there been an increase in children's mental health issues post-Covid-19?

According to Dr Sable, there has been an increase in children's mental health post-Covid-19. Children tend to have different emotional needs, social isolation and loneliness has impacted the children's mental health.

As a result, excessive worries and anxiousness has been reported amongst most children. Along with that, difficulty concentrating, irritability, restlessness and nervousness has increased post Covid-19. Seeking help from mental health professionals can help children combat their mental health issues quickly.

Has there been an increase in suicide rates during a lockdown?

In 2020, WHO estimated that 1.53 million people would die from suicide, representing one death every 20 seconds and one attempt every one to two seconds.

The suicidal rates across the world have not been fully examined yet, a limited number of studies draw attention to during lockdown the tremendous growth in mental disorders have been reported associated with the increased level of stress, loneliness, economic difficulties, the uncertainty of times and anxiety associated with the infection.

Suicidal behaviour has increased with the underlying mental health conditions amongst individuals. Early signs of suicidal behaviour should not be ignored. Should you notice suicidal thoughts amongst yourself or others, you should reach out to a mental health professional to diagnose the risk factors and get the right help at the earliest.

What are some helpful tips to ensure a healthy and sound mental state through Covid-19?

It is suggested to talk it out with loved ones and reach out to a doctor at the earliest. Maintain communication with others, even if you are quarantined.

Engage, talk to people via phone, partake in activities that interest you, learn new skills or learn a new hobby. Now that you have time try to spend it on yourself and learn something you always wanted to avoid internet surfing or watching negative news. Work on your sleep routine, follow one sleep pattern daily, schedule your day accordingly. Listen to motivational podcasts and songs, get involved in meditation, yoga and maintain your diet.

The reality of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members and friends, mental health has taken a toll on many. How can people avoid the side effects of the changes taking place?

Covid-19 has brought on a new normal, and with that, we are supposedly adapting to daily changes. You should have basic knowledge and be aware of the common symptoms of mental illness that include recurrent negative thoughts or dysfunctional thoughts (for example; why is it happening to me?), overthinking, suicidal thoughts, suicidal behaviour, loss of appetite, sleeping less or sleeping more, sudden changes in emotions or behaviour, anger, frustration, excessive worry, anxiousness, nervousness, sadness, feeling upset, losing of interests in activities and physical symptoms with no clinical diagnosis.

These are a few of the common symptoms that you should be aware of and if you notice any of these, you should reach out to a professional at the earliest. Due to quarantine and movement restrictions, there is less to no physical activity, so it is advised to perform any physical activity daily.

This can include 10 minutes of walking daily, meditation, and yoga, which will help you relax and stay focused. Staying hydrated by drinking water consistently is essential, eating healthy by including leafy vegetables and fruits. Try to cut down on bad habits such as; constantly on your mobile, surfing the internet, watching TV the entire day, smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, as it negatively affects your mental health.

What is the mental health statistic post-Covid-19?

Bereavement, isolation and economic difficulties are the major factors leading to increasing mental health conditions post Covid-19. As per the surveys performed, overall, 42 per cent reported the symptoms of depression and anxiety, with an increase of 11 per cent from the previous year. Data from other surveys report similar statistics worldwide and by considering circumstances, the statistic is expected to increase.


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