Updated: May 21, 2021
Nishk S and Sanjana K
We live in a world of confinement, trapped in our monotone schedules. COVID has limited our actions and has taken a toll on both our physical and mental health. Over 150 million families are worried sick about their loved ones, wondering when they will get better. Many articles and news sites focus solely on the physical effects of COVID. However, the amount of energy spent on discovering the psychological toll of COVID-19 is almost zero. Though it is a virus that attacks our respiratory system, it has an indirect effect on our mental health. Families are distraught, worrying to no end about what will happen to their loved ones. As they sit and wait in the ICUs, their hearts beat out of their chests. The smell of alcohol fills their nostrils as the loud clock ticks on. The pains one is put through when the virus attacks are unimaginable.
The toll on the Elderly
Individuals diagnosed with COVID face many physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, and loss of taste. However, did you know that there are some symptoms undetectable to the outside world? According to Healthline, 1 in 5 COVID-19 patients developed depression, anxiety, and dementia within 3 months of their diagnosis. For a while, doctors have suspected the link between COVID-19 and mental illnesses.
While many individuals suffer from mental illnesses while recovering from COVID-19, elderly people have a 2 to 3 times greater risk for developing dementia. The virus itself has caused devastating effects for the elderly but another important issue is the distance that has been created between families. There are examples of many families where the elderly are far from their children and grandchildren. The main stressor for these people is that they aren’t sure when things are going to be completely normal again, and when they can see their families. The isolation that COVID has created also takes a large toll on their mental health.
Our Heros’ Health
Mental health not only affects COVID patients but also affects healthcare workers. Working double or even triple shifts, our healthcare workers make sure that everyone is staying healthy and taking the proper precautions. A poll conducted by KFF stated, "The KFF Health Tracking Poll conducted in mid-April 2020 found that 64% of households with a health care worker said worry and stress over the coronavirus caused them to experience at least one adverse impact on their mental health and well-being, such as difficulty sleeping or eating, increases in alcohol consumption or substance use, and worsening chronic conditions, compared to 56% of all households” One situation of this is currently in India. Indian hospitals are facing a major oxygen crisis and hospitals are running out of space. They are now accommodating 2 people per bed to take in as many patients as possible. The nurses and doctors there work endlessly, to make sure that everyone goes home healthy. This lack of sleep will directly affect their mental health since they will become sleep-deprived and stressed.
What's the Solution?
The physical effects of COVID-19 are treatable but the mental effects are persistent. The trauma that healthcare workers face while in the hospital is unimaginable and the patients themselves face extreme levels of stress and anxiety. The key solution to reduce stress and anxiety is support. It is important that you are there whenever someone is in distress or is anxious. We need to start paying attention to not only the physical effects of COVID but the mental ones as well.