The Psychological Impact of COVID-19:How did Covid affect collective mental health?
Updated: Jan 30
COVID-19 has had some positive and negative effects on the environment, but how has it affected mental health? And, did the virus affect mental health more positively or negatively?
First, let’s talk about unemployment. The National Bureau of Economic Research has declared US unemployment rates as one of the major economic downturns after the Great Depression. Due to strict stay-at-home orders, in response to the Coronavirus disease, according to the Congressional Research Service, the rate of unemployment in the US was 14.8% in April 2020. This unemployment spike resulted in many people being jobless and by extension, not having any way to earn money to satisfy their needs. However, for various socio-political reasons, by the end of December, this rate had declined to 6.7% in December 2020.
According to the American Psychological Association, unemployment rates triggered widespread psychological distress, which is defined as “a form of worry” or “symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.” In addition, Policy Options magazine stated that the group most affected by the closure of workplaces, caused by the pandemic, was young women.
In Canada, the unemployment rates between February and April 2020 increased by 14.3% for males and 20.4 % for females. However, Canada announced several Unemployment Insurance Benefits to help people who got sick or lost their jobs due to covid.
Effect on Sociality and Education
According to the World Economic Forum, the “COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever.” The pandemic formed major barriers to education and youth. Most educational institutions around the world had to quickly adapt to the new realities in order to reduce the transmission of the virus. To solve this problem, online (or hybrid) teaching was introduced, however, another obstacle came into fruition, this obstacle being an extension of poor politics and social inequality. Some students did not have access to digital devices or had poor internet, while some students did. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, nearly 25% of students from unprivileged backgrounds in the US did not have access to a computer for educational purposes.
Patricia Perez, an Associate Professor of International Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology shed light on another daunting factor about how COVID has affected the youth population around the world in writing, “young people like to make plans for the future, and it’s difficult to do that when they don’t know how long this new way of life will last.”
This new system of learning has made students lazy and unmotivated. There is no physical activity, no social contact, and therefore, no motivation, which teachers stimulated in classroom environments.
As mentioned in the Daily Orange newspaper, lack of face-to-face interactions has been linked to anxiety and depression, since many people are only seeing others through digital screens.
Why the curfews?
In response to the spread of COVID-19, curfews and lockdowns became the favored methods for controlling the spread of the disease. In an article published by Global Dev online blog, the authors ask a tough question: Should curfews and lockdowns cost us our mental health? Mental health might be both the cause and consequence of social and physical isolation.
Observations were recorded before and after US state-wide lockdowns, and it was noted that the mental health of individuals living in states with strict stay-at-home orders deteriorated more than those living in states without such tough restrictions. As a result, in the U.S., symptoms of depression and anxiety rose to around forty percent during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to eleven percent in early 2019. The Mental Health Foundation tried to offer the suggestion to stay connected, eat healthily, keep active in order to not let the stay-at-home orders affect mental health… Easier said than done?
Although it is true that depression, anxiety, and suicide were present before COVID-19, these mental illnesses have seen a dramatic increase since the start of the pandemic. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) conducted a survey on adults aged eighteen years or more across the United States in 2020, and the results showed that forty-point-nine percent of individuals surveyed displayed at least one mental or behavioral health condition, and around thirty-point-nine reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. As a result, the CDC published a Help Guide. The guide introduced some coping mechanisms to help reduce the severity of these illnesses. The guide included things such as eating healthy, the use of reminders to keep yourself on track, and practicing some kind of activity such as breathing exercises.
This deadly virus has affected all of our lives in one or another. Some people have lost jobs and suffered from depression, but we all need not lose hope because we will overcome this battle together. Remember that there are online workshops provided to overcome stress as well as government resources to help people maintain their daily life.