In the wake of COVID-19, we expect a wave of psycho-social challenges due to the lockdown and abnormal conditions that most people are living under at the moment .
Looking at the history of other extreme events, it is common to see widespread chronic mental illnesses (or psychological strain/unrest) following the acute medical phase.
Feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, social withdrawal, overwhelm, pressure on the chest and other symptoms are commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or sustained stress/fear/isolation events. If not managed early on, these can become chronic and deepen the trauma - for self and society.
Emerging evidence suggests that between 10-20% of the population are likely to face some sort of psycho-social challenges within the coming six months. This percentage and timeline will inevitably rise the longer a lockdown continues and is influenced by the large variation in standards of living faced by citizens across the social spectrum.
People do not experience the lockdown equally: it is much more difficult if people are unsafe, have little to no income, or if they live in overcrowded areas with little to no access to ‘green space’. The challenges to mental health are far greater when people face these risk factors on a daily basis.
Elevated and continuous levels of stress and anxiety is unhealthy for anyone anywhere.
Stress reduces the immune response in humans, heightens the risk of serious infections and can lead to a range of other diseases.
Citizens need professional assistance to not only buffer these psycho-social shocks but to build resilience and support healthy recovery during this time and into the future.
There are no vaccines preventing psychological and emotional disorders. There are not enough (affordable/accessible) health professionals for the number of people needing assistance.
So what do we do?