Being social animals, humans feel baffled when they are isolated from the rest of the world. This isolation leads to mental agony and distress of varying intensity. With the current outbreak of COVID-19, hundreds of people are being quarantined/ isolated to ensure their safety as well as of those around them. Quarantine refers to separation of people who are suspected of having being exposed to the infection, while isolation refers to separation of the infected person(s) (i.e. confirmed cases) from the general population.
In India as well, hundreds of Indian nationals, following the coronavirus outbreak in China were quarantined when they landed in New Delhi. Similarly, in order to prevent the infection from spreading in Kerala, once three people were identified with the infection, around 3000 people were home quarantined. While this is extremely effective in controlling epidemics triggered by communicable diseases, it has a devastating impact on the mental health of the individuals.
Such methods begin to target the person instead of targeting the pathogen, leading to stigmatization and isolation, which further causes separation, anxiety, fear, guilt, insomnia and other psychological effects, such as suicide.
There are various studies on the psychological impact of quarantine. One such study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Psychological Medicine, King's College, London. They reviewed 24 studies conducted in 10 different countries in order to better understand the psychological impact on people who were quarantined during epidemics such as, Ebola, SARS, H1N1 etc. They concluded that such isolated conditions caused anxiety and fear among people.
Therefore, it is not only important to consider our physical health during such challenging times, but also to pay attention to our mental health. With a lot of uncertainty around us due to the current outbreak of COVID-19, worry, stress and anxiety are extremely common. However, amidst all of this uncertainty we must learn to acknowledge and learn to take care of our mental health, and be better equipped to cope with the situation we’re facing.
Rawat, M (2020). Coronavirus outbreak and mental health. How we can help people in quarantine. Retrieved from: https://www.indiatoday.in/world/story/coronavirus-outbreak-covid19-cases-quarantine-mental-health-1652639-2020-03-05
Ross, C (2020). How COVID-19 may impact mental health. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-future-brain/202003/how-covid-19-may-impact-mental-health
Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Greenberg, N., & Rubin, G. J. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet.