By Louise Sköld Boström
Covid-19 has undoubtedly affected people in several ways and this past year has taught us that mental health is no exception. Due to the outbreak and relentless spread of Covid-19, we have had to face new difficulties. We went from having a social life to staying home alone most of the time. We used to go to school, college and work and now have to constantly study via online platforms. We have had to restrain ourselves from meeting family members and friends, who are considered to be in the risk-zone due to underlying medical conditions.
Needless to say, stress, fear and anxiety have made their way into our lives and have become the new normal. Therefore, it would be safe to say that besides the Covid-19 epidemic, we are also facing a second crisis regarding mental health issues, although more discreet and not as openly discussed.
Social isolation and loneliness can potentially have severe mental health consequences, like a change in sleep patterns and depression. Social isolation could also lead to more suicide attempts and completed suicides. According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization: “Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being.”
Good mental health has always been an essential part of life and included in that, is the ability to have a social life and to be able to interact and connect with other people. However, due to the current social distancing regulations and the inability to have day-to-day social interactions, and the mandatory quarantines and lockdowns, we have become extremely socially isolated. Ken Duckworth, MD, chief medical officer of the National Alliance of Mental Illness explains that: “The isolation that we need to do to save lives is hitting [people] right at their
developmental core.” Activities that are crucial to us as human beings like going out, meeting new people, falling in love, participating in new outside the home pursuits, have all been off limits.
Aside from making us socially isolated and deprived of personal interactions, Covid-19 has also had a major effect on our anxiety levels. We are all facing stressful and overwhelming challenges. We are also having to constantly, both consciously and subconsciously, to answer additional a multitude of stressful questions that go through our minds, such as ‘What will happen if I get infected?’ or ‘What if I affect someone without knowing I’m infected?’ Unfortunately, these questions are beyond our reach and are not helping with our anxiety levels and our overall mental health.
It is difficult, or rather quite impossible, to foresee the long-term effects of the pandemic on our mental health. Will Covid-19 make us predisposed to other mental health issues? How will the prolonged exposure to the anxiety and fear impact us?