Mental health has become an increasingly talked about subject in the current climate, and with the Coronavirus having loomed over all of us for many months, dominating our everyday interactions and ability to work, has this rare situation done permanent damage to our overall mental health?
Suicide and mental health issues have been at a record high in first world countries before the outbreak. This could be due to our ability to recognise and diagnose issues more quickly and effectively but also overwhelming immediate access to all the problems in the world at our fingertips. This in itself has made us more anxious than ever before. No time to worry about your own problems, now you’re worrying about war-torn Syria, starvation in Africa, or bombing in Yemen.
One of the difficulties in this environment is that measuring impact is difficult when the means to measure are extremely limited. Some experts suggest that smartphones should be used to monitor mental health in real time so that effective tools and support can be designed quickly to help people at home. This brings into question the privacy and legal implications for such activity. If you allow research companies access to your phone for basic mental health and statistical information, what is the likelihood that they won’t sell that information on or they are hacked and the data is exposed to the wide web. We have seen these issues arise before in the case of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Surveys report increased worry about the effects of social isolation and financial difficulties on the levels of stress, economic anxiety, and depression.
A big worry has been placed on the over-65s. Not only does the virus disproportionately affect them, the situation they end up in where they are left alone for months at a time with no family or support around them can seriously affect their mind. This has been evident in past circumstances as during the Sars epidemic in 2003 there was a 30% increase in suicide in the over-65s, showing the real impact this virus could have on the older generation. Each year as many as 1 in 4 of us can experience a mental health problem. Attempting to understand our mental health is key to improving things and recognising when we or others around us may be suffering in silence. Although it may sound awkward or may be difficult to do, sending a message to your close (and distant) friends is a good way of both keeping in touch and showing them that someone cares about them. You may not think it matters but for someone suffering from a serious condition or are simply having an off day, it can do the world of good for them. Psychologist Mary Alvord compared the levels of stress that the pandemic has caused to that of the second world war, due to it’s “across the board” effect on both the young and old, alike. Also with schools closing comes the ever growing gap between the lower and upper class education system as poorer kids have less opportunities to access online work and less motivation to complete their assignments, undoing years of gap reduction within the class system.
Although many haven’t experienced such a peculiar period in their lives before, this ‘break’ in the normal routine of life could potentially have some positive side effects. Locals of Northern India are finally seeing the view of the Himalayan mountain range for the first time in their lives due to the decrease of air pollution, along with a reduction of carbon emissions by around 25 per cent in China alone. This experience can open many people up to new ways of living and experiencing life, whether through the internet, trying new relaxation techniques, or starting a new hobby, there are plenty of opportunities in a world (more now than ever) lived online. Whatever you have decided to do with your time apart from work, family, and friends, this stage of our lives will be both universally relatable and memorable for every one of us.