CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and suicide which could be distressing to some readers.
In January 2020, Coronavirus was declared a global health emergency, affecting people in different ways. Apart from the millions of people who had sadly passed away over the last three years, the effects of the pandemic have played a major role in deteriorating the mental state of individuals all over the world.
The viral outbreak resulted in measures being put in place to reduce the spread of corona. Most importantly, the introduction of a global lockdown took the world by storm, forcing people to spend a lot of time in their homes. At first, people did not think that being on lockdown for a long period would be that bad, as they were comfortable being in the safety of their loved ones and the comfort of their houses, but as the health situation globally became worse after the first few months of dealing with the pandemic, peoples living situations started to deteriorate, from being stuck in a house with a corona sick patient, to not being able to source for food at times, the lockdown became unbearable to most and it wasn't as easy as it was made out to be. Apart from this, other measures like quarantine were imposed when a person had been in contact with a corona-sick patient or travelling from specified countries deemed to have a larger turnout of the virus spread.
These measures were put in place to protect the health of citizens all over the world and essentially stop the increase in deaths due to the virus. However, with a lot of focus on trying to find a cure for the coronavirus, the government had neglected a crucial step in creating policies to battle the pandemic, considering how it would affect people's mental health.
At the peak of the pandemic, there were reports of an increase in domestic violence, particularly against married women. It is well known that domestic violence can lead to mental illnesses such as major depression, anxiety and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition to this, mental health plays a huge role in our daily lives, determining our moods, and how motivated we are to stay productive. Thus natural human behaviour includes, socialising and exposure to the external environment. Without this, humans adapt to being confined in the comfort of their homes, which limits interactions with nature and in most cases other humans as well. This left room for feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness to grow. In the most extreme cases, some people have even had suicidal thoughts during this period due to the worsening of their mental state and a lack of support.
Battling mental illnesses alone
The Covid-19 pandemic made individuals more independent and self-reliant. Specifically in situations whereby people had to care for themselves because they either lived alone, or everyone else in the household was too ill to support them. This type of living situation was extremely common with young adults as at this age, most of them might be living on their own away from their families. With 20% of adolescents experiencing mental health problems, not having a good support system could worsen their mental state and make it difficult to do daily activities during lockdown such as working, as most jobs moved online and self-care. This shows that the outcome of the pandemic has led to a spiral effect which has negatively affected the mental health of millions of people.
“Good mental health is absolutely fundamental to overall health and well-being.” - Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Due to not being able to socialise in person, there has been an increase in dependency on social media ever since the pandemic started. The internet and social media have always been present in our societies ever since the late 90s, being used as entertainment to pass time when people are bored. However, due to everything in society being shut down, people resorted to spending over 24 hours glued to their screens. The negative effects of social media and the internet go way beyond affecting the eyes, and fatigue, it is also one of the most common forms of bullying today. Online bullying has had negative impacts. on the emotional and mental state of humans as it can lead to depression, anxiety, self-harm and even suicide. Before the lockdown people had the choice to take a break from their phones and social media but as people got used to spending time indoors, even as outdoor activities and jobs have re-opened, the dependency on social media is still at an all-time high as it has become the new normal.
As of 2023, 3 years since the beginning of the pandemic and the enforcement of the lockdown, people are finding new ways to cope with mental illnesses that they might have developed during the pandemic. Some of these ways include Exercise, healthy eating, socialising, meditation, building on interests and hobbies, and sleep which I'm sure we've all done enough of during the lockdown.