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Psychological impact of COVID-19

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The coronavirus or COVID-19 has emerged as the serious threat for all the nations around the globe. The disease has been declared as Pandemic by World Health Organization (WHO) and has paralysed the cycle of global village with stress and anxiety. COVID-19, started from the Hubei province of China, has now reached to more than 200 countries on the planet. Rapid spread and limitations of healthcare facilities are causing extensive panic and anxiety among governments, institutions, and individuals in every part of the world.
The outbreak of this virus has triggered the equal level of crisis in countries of developed, developing, and underdeveloped world. Due to lack of proactive measures European countries and US have emerged as epicentre of COVID-19. Countries like Italy, Spain, France, and the US have been severely affected regions in the western world.
Since December 2019 the virus has been spreading exponentially and more than one million people have been infected while the number of resulting deaths is increasing with every passing day. The disease has influenced every segment of society with a varying level of damage. Present crisis of Pandemic affirms the observations of Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, that this is not merely a public health issue but a crisis that will touch every sector.
Dr. Yuval Neria Research Scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute describes the current crisis as the most dangerous because of not being confined to any geographic space. Governments of different countries responded to the pandemic with lockdowns, closure of educational institutions, suspension of economic activities, and the banning of public gatherings.
Researchers, and analysts are of the view that world is going to face multidimensional crisis which will indiscriminately disturb the political, economic, and social landscape of world. In this respect various intellectual attempts are being made to evaluate and comprehend the health, economic, political, and social implications of this crisis in this globalized world. However, the psychological dimension of implications has become very critical because it will render long lasting consequences for mental health of individuals.
In the wake of harsh initiatives of lockdowns and prolonged suspension of routine, the life of many has been revolving around the questions related to present and after the Coronavirus situation. As per instructions of authorities educational institutions were closed and the students facing the enormous disruption of lives. Children were confined to the boundaries of home with less opportunity of physical activities and socialization with friends which is essential for mental wellbeing. In this condition children are likely to be prone to psychological problems such as worry, anxiety, and fear. Similarly, COVID-19 has extended multifaceted psychological challenges for elderly population as well.
The elders have gone against the very nature of human and given up socialization while many are experiencing difficulties in securing their monetary life lines amidst evolving economic meltdowns. Lockdowns, restrictions, and lack of economic activities have left millions without jobs and uncertain future where no authority can forecast when the worst will pass. Experts suggest that those who are financially crippled by the crisis or who experience the loss of loved ones are the most susceptible to enduring psychological trauma.
Dr. Elana Newman expert on traumatic life events maintains that coronavirus is mass community disaster which has components of terrorism such as fear, on-going fear in the life of individuals. Given the expert’s opinions on current crisis, the deteriorating social and economic conditions will lead to severe psychological and mental implications for individuals and groups of all ages. Moreover the health sector professionals, the front line soldiers of this crisis, are also going through significant amount of stress and anxiety.
Doctors, nurses, paramedics, and related professionals are the front line workers with high risk of contracting the virus like older people and those with chronic disease. It has been observed that insufficient Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and supportive medical machinery (Ventilators) followed by the unexpected rise in COVID patients inflicted the psychological stress and mental health disorders on healthcare professionals.
A recent study on “Mental Health Effects of COVID-19 on Healthcare Workers in China” reveals that during the current crisis healthcare professionals endured adverse psychological reactions. The survey and findings of research concluded that the healthcare workers handling COVID-19 patients developed mental stress symptoms like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
Since February this year Pakistan has also been exposed to COVID-19 crisis. Just like practices around the globe authorities have responded to this crisis with lockdown and restrictions on mobility. Educational institutions, offices, markets, business centres, and public places closed while public gatherings banned to restrict the spread of this disease. However, the number of coronavirus infected people is increasing day by day and the causalities are also witnessing rising trend. Given the vulnerabilities of Pakistan’s economy, healthcare facilities, education, and socio-economic conditions of citizens impact of this crisis would be manifold. Like other countries students, healthcare professionals, and workers are suffering from mental health disorders.
It is estimated that Pakistan’s large portion of workers is daily wager which is struggling to earn bread and butter to feed their families during these restrictions on mobility. Similarly the healthcare professionals of Pakistan are also dealing with insufficient equipment and large scale flow of COVID patients. Fear and anxiety gripped health workers when doctors tested positive for COVID-19 across the country and one of the doctors died in Gilgit while other was put on ventilator after his condition deteriorated in Karachi.
Given the evolving challenges government and relevant institutions has to take immediate and effective measures to curtail the loss of students and provide food to the vulnerable section of society. Couple with this government needs to equip health sector with significant manpower and logistics. The mental health and motivation level of healthcare workers is crucial in contemporary crisis. Government should ensure safety and security of healthcare workers by providing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), medical machinery, and other necessary equipment for preventing or limiting the mental health deterioration.
Surveillance of healthcare facilities, security of staff, and swift implementation of policies are inevitable for effectively countering the COVID-19 and limiting its psychological impact. Moreover, it is essential to devise proactive policies and strategies to deal with post COVID crisis scenarios as well.