Preventing a Mental Health Pandemic!

11 August 2020 / By Social Media

Started in China, the coronavirus (nCoV-19), believed to be far worse than the seasonal flu and SARS by researchers and medical professionals alike, is said to be the worst outbreak since the Spanish Flu, which caused 500 lakh deaths, with 200 lakh deaths in India alone. The global pandemic has disrupted the routine lives of all of the humankind across the globe which will have ramifications persisting long after the pandemic ends. It becomes pertinent, therefore, to acknowledge and respond to the stressors this year has put in on our health as a whole, in an adequate and timely manner.

The COVID-19 outbreak has brought into light the deteriorating state of the country’s healthcare system and the need to have a nation-wide psychological intervention plan. As per the ET Health World: Everyone in the 21 st -century will have at least a ‘touch-and-go’ with mild depression or in the extreme ‘some form of tension’ to the impending financial loss or a job loss. The effects are already surfacing during the escalation phase; divorce rates have gone up in China, gun sales have skyrocketed in the USA, and hoarding of daily necessities has failed supply chains. The presence of these intense and persistent stressors has affected the individual’s ability to cope and regulate their emotions.

Findings from several studies have corroborated this and showcased the wide-ranging and profound psychological impact outbreaks have had on the mental health of individuals. As per the study conducted by Siu (2008), the SARS victims were still experiencing stigmatization up to four years after the SARS outbreak in 2003, which maintained their social isolation, increased their level of stress, and worsened their mental health. The participants of this study had reported that they have encountered stigmatization and isolation in their workplace after SARS, from their colleagues and even from their employers. Thus, even for individuals without mental illness, an outbreak can induce psychiatric symptoms while in those with pre existing mental illnesses, their conditions could be aggravated and cause distress to them as well as their caregivers. Moreover, regardless of exposure, individuals may experience fear and anxiety of falling ill or dying, helplessness, or blame those who are ill, which can potentially trigger off a mental breakdown. Wu et al., (2005), in their study, found that certain participants developed post-traumatic stress disorder after physically recovering from a life-threatening condition.

As per the research done on epidemics and pandemics and speculations by International Institutions, it is believed that stigma, financial loss, and job insecurity may have a long-lasting psychological impact and will be the major concerns during and after COVID-19. In fact, with the halting of community services and the collapse of work industries that have impacted the economy adversely, many individuals incur financial losses and run the risk of unemployment, further intensifying the negative emotions experienced by them. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, stressed the cumulative impact of stress, grief, and anxiety in his interview with Time Magazine, “Unless we act now to address the mental health needs associated with the pandemic, there will be enormous long-term consequences for families, communities and societies.”

Therefore, mitigation measures are needed during and after a pandemic in order to reduce the potential negative effects on an individual’s mental health (Brooks et al., 2020) and to be able to identify solutions and strategies which will help employees and organizations to reduce the risk of mental health issues. Social support at work and the development and implementation of mental health support and services are crucial to prevent mental health outcomes of COVID- 19 (Xiang et al., 2020). In order to mitigate the potential negative impact of quarantine, social isolation, fear of contagion, and uncertainty on employees, managers should foster a supportive environment in the workplace (Brooks et al., 2018). In this context, social support programs need to be developed during and after COVID-19, by maintaining continuous communication with employees (Greer & Payne, 2014), it can be through employee assistance programs that should be offered for managers and non-managers.

The Corporate Module, “Happier Employees Make Happier Workplaces” by You’re Wonderful Project; seeks to bridge this gap by encouraging good mental health at workplaces through accepting the existence of mental health, learning strategies, and overcoming stress and anxiety. With a firm belief that there is not only a need to acknowledge but also address mental health issues to create a healthy workspace in these unprecedented times, YWP; strives to make workspaces happier and mentally healthier through this scientifically researched Corporate Module.

By the end of this module, employees and employers will:

  Understand the importance of mental health and its acceptance
  Learn mindfulness activities for improving mental health
  Know how to deal with stress and be empathetic

To strengthen our psychological defenses, it is vital to identify staff who suffers from work exhaustion or psychological distress so that timely intervention can be provided to them, and they should be encouraged to report their condition or mental state without fear of being blamed for doing so. Good health is a prerequisite for good education and a good economy. If you are not healthy, you cannot be good at education or productive for the economy.

Hence, both long-term and short-term health investments need to be prioritized. Eventually, the mental issues are going to set apart the nations who preemptively invested in managing them, versus others. It’s time to take action.

At the level of the governance, practical tips on how the public should react during the outbreak—such as the practice of good hygiene and donning of surgical mask— and manage fear and uncertainty of the virus—through positive reframing, stress management, and relaxation techniques—can be disseminated to the public through video clips and cartoons that can be easily understood by them. Higher levels of satisfaction with existing health information have been found to correlate with lower psychological distress in individuals.

At a person level, to avoid a distressing situation, individuals should not get exposed to media coverage too much; to maintain a healthy relationship, get in touch with friends and family members on a regular interval using social media platforms and practice mindfulness, increasing self-awareness by getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and employing different relaxation techniques.

It is important to remember that you are not alone in this battle and all of us are experiencing emotions, thoughts, and situations we have never experienced before. It is okay to need help. It is okay to ask for help. Please reach out.


REFERENCES

  1. Dr. Garg, R.K. (2020). Fiscal Stimulus Strategy for Mental Health Post Coronavirus Pandemic. Economic Times Health World. Retrieved From: https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/fiscal-stimulus-strategy-for-mental-health-post-coronavirus-pandemic/75091107
  2. Liang L., & Ren H., & Cao R., Hu Y., &; Qin Z., &; Chuanen Li C., &; Mei., S., (2020). The Effect of COVID-19 on Youth Mental Health. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2020. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11126-020-09744-3.pdf
  3. Cyrus S.H., & Cornelia Y. C., & Roger C.M. (2020). Mental Health Strategies to Combat the Psychological Impact of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Beyond Paranoia and Panic. Retrieved from:  http://www.annals.edu.sg/pdf/49VolNo3Mar2020/V49N3p155.pdf
  4. Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences, Bengaluru. (2020) Mental Health in the times of COVID-19 Pandemic Guidance for General Medical and Specialised Mental Health Care. Retrieved from:  https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/COVID19Final2020ForOnline9July2020.pdf
  5. World Health Organisation. (2020). Facing mental health fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved From: https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/facing-mental-health-fallout-from-the-coronavirus-pandemic
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