COVID-19 Pandemic and Impending Global Mental Health Implications

Have you ever noticed that on days when you have to work, you wake up late and feel tired, and on relaxing days off, you wake up early feeling rested? What a beautiful day outside today. Sunny, 70’s, nice breeze, and great for a nice 10K run this Sunday morning. It’s a great day to be alive despite the current world environment. The COVID-19 pandemic is now overshadowed by all the news media on all the protests and riots, but let’s not forget about it. Many Americans are still suffering from the mental health sequela of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been reviewing literature on mental health sequela of the COVID-19 pandemic for a small research project I’m working on and what I’m finding is very interesting. I thought I would share this on the blog. I realize there are other ways to spend a Sunday morning, but hey, some of us enjoy a short leisure read from time to time. Here’s a summary. 

Shuja et al (2020) wrote that the media has treated COVID-19 as an exclusive threat.  As such, this has added to panic and stress in the masses which can lead to several mental health issues like anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (1).  They identified several studies that link illness such as HIV, tuberculosis, SIRS of 2003, Ebola of 2014 etc. to widespread fear induced over reactive behavior among the general public (1-10). Shuja et al (2020) linked pandemic illness to several psychiatric disorders like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (1-10).  The reported that the coronavirus pandemic has spread fear on both the individual and society level such that there needs to be implementation of proper mental health precautions in addition to physical health precautions especially in areas where resources are limited.  They report that there needs to be timely detection and eradication of mental health issues to prevent long-term suffering.  They reported on strategies such as online psychological help lines, online therapy, tele-psychiatry etc. in addition, there needs to be mass communication on the society level to ease the fear and anxiety being spread.

Shuja et al (2020) reported on a study (11) that found any uncertain situation can lead to panic-induced behavior and with the influence of COVID-19, self-confinement and an absence of proper treatment for the infectious disease has led masses in panic and anxiety inciting situation (1,11).  They recommended that mental health professionals be sensitive to this fear and anxiety and provide comfort and reassurance and supportive psychotherapy.  They also reported concern for PTSD-like symptoms.  They reported that health professionals working in quarantine COVID-19 units with lack of proper protective measures and death of fellow doctors can lead to significant symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health professionals should apply therapies such as stress-adaptation model to reduce the level of high stress in health professionals (1,12)

  1. Shuja KH, Aqeel M, Jaffar A, Ahmed A. COVID-19 Pandemic and Impending Global Mental Health Implications. Psychiatr Danub. 2020;32(1):32‐35. doi:10.24869/psyd.2020.32
  2. Gale SD, Berrett AN, Erickson LD, Brown BL & Hedges DW: Association between virus exposure and depression in US adults. Psychiatry research 2018; 261:73-79
  3. Mason BW & Lyons RA: Acute psychological effects of suspected bioterrorism. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 2003; 57:353-354
  4. Kuan V, Denaxas S, Gonzalez-Izquierdo A, Direk K, Bhatti O, Husain S & Lumbers RT: A chronological map of 308 physical and mental health conditions from 4 million individuals in the English National Health Service. The Lancet Digital Health 2019; 1:e63-e77
  5. van den Heuvel L, Chishinga N, Kinyanda E, Weiss H, Patel V, Ayles H & Seedat S: Frequency and correlates of anxiety and mood disorders among TB-and HIV-infected Zambians. AIDS care 2013; 25:1527-1535
  6. Shultz, JM, Cooper JL, Baingana F, Oquendo MA, Espinel Z, Althouse BM & Mazurik L: The role of fear-related behaviors in the 2013–2016 West Africa Ebola virus disease outbreak. Current psychiatry reports 2016; 18:104
  7. Person B, Sy F, Holton K, Govert B & Liang A: Fear and stigma: the epidemic within the SARS outbreak. Emerging Infectious Diseases 2004; 10:358
  8. Blakey SM, Kirby AC, McClure KE, Elbogen EB, Beckham JC, Watkins LL & Clapp JD: Posttraumatic safety behaviors: Characteristics and associations with symptom severity in two samples. Traumatology, 2019
  9. Gardner PJ & Moallef P: Psychological impact on SARS survivors: Critical review of the English language literature. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne 2015; 56:123
  10. Mak IWC, Chu CM, Pan PC, Yiu MGC & Chan VL: Longterm psychiatric morbidities among SARS survivors. General hospital psychiatry 2009; 31:318-326
  11. Lunn P, Belton C, Lavin C, McGowan F, Timmons S & Robertson D: Using behavioural science to help fight the coronavirus (No. WP656), 2020
  12. Folkman S & Greer S: Promoting psychological wellbeing in the face of serious illness: when theory, research and practice inform each other. Psycho-Oncology: Journal of the Psychological, Social and Behavioral Dimensions of Cancer 2000; 9:11-19

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