Mental health concerns during the corona virus pandemic have been on my mind constantly over the past week or so. Each day has brought with it stricter measures, imposing further limits to our personal freedom. As we have never experienced something like this before in our lifetime, it does seem as if the blind are leading the blind. Immediate rules are being imposed without any measurable concern for the long term mental health of people forced into self isolation. My concern is how feasible this is to maintain for as long as 12 weeks or more as well as how individual’s mental health will be affected. In fact, I don’t believe it will be possible to maintain this self isolation for longer than 6 weeks or so before people start to go stir crazy (and possibly break the rules).
Increased domestic abuse
In my opinion, domestic abuse is going to increase. As families are cooped up with each other with little respite – physical, mental and emotional abuse is going to rise dramatically. As a society, we aren’t geared at all for a life spent at home indefinitely, with very little to distract us. Family members can be easy targets and many spouses and children will end up as ‘emotional punching bags‘. Some family members will have lost their jobs, sporting events have been cancelled and there are fewer options for going out now that pubs and restaurants have closed. Many people will be ill-equipped to deal with this and will struggle to find the mental and emotional strength to cope with these austere conditions. The first people to suffer might be the ‘weaker’ ones in the family. As it is, domestic abuse cases are rising and what is reported is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’.
Individuals who are struggling to cope with life will find this time particularly tough. Not only are they mentally fragile but they will now feel even more isolated and alone in what they are going through. The corona virus pandemic may be too much for these fragile individuals to manage. Loneliness is one of the causes or suicide. Not everyone who is lonely will commit suicide but it raises the risk considerably. A lack of close meaningful connections with others can leave a person feeling despondent and hopeless. Couple that with the uncertainty of how long this will last and this may tip many over the edge.
Loneliness is also strongly correlated with depression. Depression features negative thinking and a feeling of hopelessness. An individual suffering from depression lacks the mental strength and clarity to cope with difficult times. Being depressed as well as being forced to reduce connecting with others and feeling isolated is bound to increase depression. I have been in self isolation for ten days now and even I am beginning to crack. I am feeling bored and restless and not knowing when this might come to an end is increasing my anxiety.
I do not think the Government has properly considered the mental health consequences of these draconian measures and the fallout is going to be huge. There may even be many individuals who suffer from PTSD a a result of this corona virus pandemic. Many will have lost money, some may end up going through divorce due to the added strains and PTSD may be a common mental health problem as a result of measures being taken today. it’s all about weighing up the pros and the cons but it is very difficult to predict the disadvantages when this is a completely new experience for all of us.
Loss of control and uncertainty are two of the greatest causes of anxiety and we have both in bucket loads presently. Many have lost jobs, have financial pressures as well as the uncertainty of how long this will continue. This is the perfect recipe in which mental illness will thrive.
As per usual, physical health has been valued over mental health with very little consideration for the mental health of the world. In an ideal world, physical health experts as well as mental health experts should have been consulted on the best plans. I would have made the measures far less strict to enable mental health to also be protected to a certain degree. There are untold stories of people dying from depression and lack of mental strength and resources. Mental health also affects physical health, the less mentally healthy you the more your physical health will suffer.
This tends to be overlooked in crises and I fear that the mental health consequences may end up being just as serious for far more people than the corona virus could affect in the long run. The bottom line is that in order for this current set up of self isolation to be successful, balance is needed. Some pubs and restaurants should stay open whilst larger gatherings etc should rightly be limited. Life is risky. I am one of the individuals with serious underlying health issues (Cystic Fibrosis) who could get more severely ill from the Covid-19 virus but I still think it is unreasonable to put the whole world into lockdown for my sake (and others with underlying conditions) and the sake of the elderly. That may seem harsh but I do believe balance is in order rather than making everyone’s life completely miserable.
Once the corona virus pandemic is over, we may find a longer lasting mental health crisis continuing due to lack of forethought.