Why COVID-19 Could Worsen Our Mental Health Crisis

Man never made a material as resilient as the human spirit.

Bernard Williams

Unless you’ve been living under the rock or simply living in your own ‘parallel universe’, I imagine you have heard about the recent coronavirus outbreak. After all, isn’t it all we’ve heard about through the various media outlets such as radio and TV? While other news has paled into insignificance and be left in the background, COVID-19 has taken centre-stage and is now at the forefront of almost everybody’s mind. Some may so, rightly so.

While I appreciate the idea of a ‘global pandemic’ is extremely tough for all of us to process, particularly as it’s the sort of thing probably few of us have experienced previously, I feel as though the media are wrongly diverting our attention solely towards the coronavirus. Especially how the situation is only going to get worse, how people over a certain age limit are more at risk of danger, and how the whole outbreak is going to put everybody’s life on hold for weeks or maybe months on end. Safety of people in these scenarios is unquestionably paramount, yet what I fear and don’t like is the period of uncertainty we are now suddenly engulfed in. Although there are strict guidelines in place for what steps we can take to avoid catching or spreading the virus to others more vulnerable, it’s important to remember that coronavirus extends far beyond the physical health aspects of populations across the globe. Speaking from my own experience, as I’m sure many others can vouch for, the current media hysteria or ‘moral panic’ around COVID-19 has huge ramifications on our mental wellbeing too. Effects that definitely should not be underestimated!

When I think of my own self-care regime and the activities I do to maintain my mental health, I would say the things at the top of my list would be reading, spending time with friends and going to the gym to relax in the sauna or workout. Now while lucky for me you can read from practically anywhere at anytime, the current period of self-isolation and ‘social distancing’ means my gym has been forced to close and I can no longer see some of my friends due to the fact they have vulnerable relatives with pre-existing health conditions. And although these issues could be considered trivial and short-term, I have to admit that the mere notion of being unable to do some of my biggest hobbies has lead to increased anxiety and a feeling that I could slip back into a dark place mentally. With the further closure of public places such as schools, colleges, universities, shops, bars and restaurants, not to mention the banning of mass gatherings and disruption to jobs and transport links, I’m certain that I’m not the only one who is slightly (or hugely) on edge about what the future may hold.

Speaking from a position whereby I live at home and I am well supported by my parents, my worries around COVID-19 do not extend to the financial side, however this obviously can’t be said for everybody. As the virus continues to grow as expected by experts and scientists, it is possible that the UK may follow the lead of other nations and enter a strict lock-down mode. A scenario which could be required for the protection of the wider public, yet on the contrary places huge amounts of jobs at risk and could lead to a situation where an unprecedented number of people are either unemployed or put on salaries which do not allow them to pay bills and maintain a good quality of life. While in the immediate term statutory sick payments and ‘mortgage breaks’ could bring a period of rest bite for some, it’d naive of us to think that measures such as these are sustainable and will cater for everybody. And if people are worrying about whether they can afford the rent, that they no longer have a career etc, surely it’s inevitable that this would put a strain on anybody’s mental health? No matter how strong they are.

With the NHS already stretched and lacking in sufficient funding and staff, especially in mental health services, a major crisis like this only serves to put incredible pressures on the resources and staff that make up such services. Therefore meaning people could be faced with the prospect of waiting even longer for support/treatment should they desperately require it!

Though it could come across that the intention of this piece is to ‘scaremonger’ and criticise certain people, I can assure that the only purposes of me writing about this topic are to inform anybody reading of the dangers of COVID-19 on mental health, and to call on the government and communities to come together to fight this virus by putting appropriate systems in place. The current times are hugely scary for some of us, however if we unite and support our loved ones (friends, family, colleagues) through the tough period we now face, it’ll make the task of battling through much easier. Social isolation or time spent alone at home could seem bliss to you, but let’s not forget that the process for some people can be more challenging than we’ll ever know. I myself have experienced isolation at its absolute worst; rest assured it’s no joke. People experiencing it deserve care and compassion, not ridicule or judgment!

Here’s hoping the situation is put under control ASAP…..

Thanks for reading,

Adam

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