The B-side of COVID-19: the cost of mental health

Social isolation and economic stressors associated with COVID-19 have made people’s mental health worse

For a long time the pandemic of COVID-19 as an assault on physical health. Shortly after governments implemented the first quarantines, the findings overthrew that idea. The statistics on illness and death are catastrophic, but there has been an equally staggering toll on mental health.

Almost a third of americans you are experiencing symptoms of clinical depression or anxiety, and the Well Being Trust estimates that there will be up to 150,000 additional deaths related to social isolation and economic stressors associated with COVID-19.

In non-pandemic times, making decisions that benefited both physical and mental health was relatively straightforward, as these options were often one and the same. Doing good for the body has tangible benefits for mood and psychological well-being. For example, exercise significantly reduces anxiety and depression, at rates comparable to drug therapy. In addition, Healthy sleep habits that promote physical homeostasis and more efficient immune system function also significantly reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and bipolar illness.

Not only concerns one's own physical or mental health, but also the well-being of the global human world totally altered by the pandemic
Not only concerns one’s own physical or mental health, but also the well-being of the global human world totally altered by the pandemic

However, the pandemic has uprooted normal routines for making health decisions. Today, choosing to make healthy choices to minimize the risk of virus infection comes at a cost to mental health, both in the short and long term.

When we quarantine ourselves, we protect our physical health, but we also increase our social isolation, which increases our loneliness, encourages negative emotions and limits access to crucial social support systems that buffer depression, -explains June Gruber professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, who focuses her research on the possible disadvantages of pleasant emotions and their links to mood and well-being disorders.

Parents who have protected their children from contracting or spreading COVID-19 by limiting play dates or homeschooling they are rightly concerned about the unknown cost to their children’s socio-emotional development in the absence of social interaction with peers ”. Young adults have missed monumental milestones, including graduations from high school and college, opportunities for him collective processing and the creation of meaning that have positive psychological and physical health benefits. “Now, these experiences represent a costly trade-off, leading us to wonder more strongly which side of health we choose to protect,” says Gruber.

Choosing to make healthy choices to minimize the risk of virus infection comes at a mental health cost
Choosing to make healthy choices to minimize the risk of virus infection comes at a mental health cost

This omnipresent balancing act leaves the feeling that Physical and mental health are at odds, in a battle competing for attention: Should you prioritize physical and family health, or weakened mental health during this stressful and uncertain time? However, this calculation is even more complicated. “Of course,” clarifies the specialist, “not only concerns one’s own physical or mental health, but also the well-being of the global human world as our individual needs are balanced with those of our collective community.

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Ultimately, even with three vaccines now approved in the US for emergency use, we are still in this long-term pandemic”. If mental health needs are ignored, any problems that can get worse, making recovery more difficult when it comes to finally addressing them and when the pandemic has gone down in history.

“We must adopt a community-centered solution to this problem, which recognizes and accepts that its approach to defining a cost-benefit ratio may differ from the approach of its neighbors and others with different personalities or developmentally appropriate needs,” explains Gruber. For example, teens and young adults may need more contact with people outside their family to maintain their mental health.

If mental health needs are ignored, any problems that can get worse (Getty Images)
If mental health needs are ignored, any problems that can get worse (Getty Images)

“This is developmentally appropriate, so instead of criticizing them for their behavior, we should think about creating guidelines for what healthy social distancing looks like in different periods of development. Having one or two friends with whom an adolescent can constantly socialize in person can be a sensible approach that balances mental and physical health concerns and can prevent risky social behaviors, ”says Jessica Borelli, professor of psychological sciences at the University of California, specializing in parent-child relationships and emotions, with a particular focus on developing tools to prevent anxiety and depression in children.

It is important to balance present needs with future needs. “Consider options that will not only support you during the present moment, but also benefit your future self long after the pandemic is over, Gruber proposes. Although it can be very exciting during times of COVID-19 to get out of the house and finally reunite with friends. in a park or to buy that flashy new iPhone after being locked inside all day, doing so can lose a larger perspective on how it can affect your future self. ” Also, while it is natural to avoid altering feelings, when it is done frequently, excessively, or in a way that prevents reaching daily goals, it is called behavioral avoidance. Behaviors like not reaching out to friends when feeling depressed come at the expense of a long-term quality of life.

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“During this global pandemic, We must accept both the mind and the body as central facets of our human health and survival – Gruber proposes – To survive the long-lasting pandemic, we must recognize that physical and mental health are mutually influencing parts of human health that work best when they work together.

Nearly one in five older adults say their mental health has worsened since the pandemic began in March 2020, and an equal percentage say their sleep has suffered during that time as well. More than one in four say they are more anxious or worried than before the COVID-19 era, according to a new survey of people ages 50 to 80.

The impact of the pandemic on mental health is evident every day
The impact of the pandemic on mental health is evident every day

Women, people in their 50s and 60s, and older adults with a college degree or higher were more likely than others to report worse mental health than before the pandemic, according to new findings from the National Survey on Healthy Aging. Older adults who say their physical health is fair or poor were more likely to report poorer mental health, and 24% said this.

And when asked about the past two weeks before being surveyed, the percentage who said they had mental health-related symptoms was even higher, with 28% saying they were feeling depressed or hopeless at the time, and 34 % who said they had been nervous or anxious. and 44% said they had recently felt stressed. Just under two-thirds (64%) said they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least once in the past week, twice the percentage who said this in a 2017 survey of a similar group of older adults.

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“I believe that the impact of the pandemic on mental health is evident, it is not something that we only see in our day to day life, but that it really begins to appear in publications,” concludes Montserrat Graell, head of psychiatry at Hospital Niño Jesús de Madrid-. We know that in the future this will continue to happen so it is beginning to be published. We have to work to ensure that the impact of this mental health tsunami is the least possible on the population. This means less mortality and also less side effects on society. To achieve this, we need to have a different planning and, above all, a different implementation of mental health plans where all the capacities of the sector are taken into account and here I am referring not only to the public sector, but also to the private sector ”.

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