Two Global Pandemics: Covid-19’s Impact on Our Mental Health

We have been dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic for over a year now. During this year, we have faced sky-rocketing unemployment rates, stay-at-home orders, curfews, and countless mandates on masks and public locations. 

In the midst of all this chaos, we have forgotten what it’s like to socialize. Holiday parties were canceled, birthday parties consisted of driving by to honk, and all contact with others has been severely limited. But, we have to wonder, what is the impact of living in a socially distanced world?

Covid-19 Changes Our Interactions

According to WHO, a cluster of pneumonia cases were reported in Wuhan, Hubei Province on December 31st. By January 5th, WHO had published the first Disease Outbreak News on the virus. At this point, there was public concern that the virus would spread beyond China. 

On January 10th, WHO released guidelines on how to detect, test, and manage cases of this virus. China released the genetic sequence on January 12th, naming it Covid-19. The following day, Thailand announced its first case of Covid-19. This was the first case detected outside of China. Over the course of the next two months, the virus spread rapidly across the world. But, it wasn’t until March 11th that the virus was classified as a global pandemic. 

Since then, most of the world has been following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. These guidelines strongly encourage everyone to maintain a six-foot distance between themselves and anyone who does not live in the same household. They also require that a mask be worn in all public spaces. 

These guidelines have resulted in virtual learning models, mandates on bars, restaurants, and other public spaces, cancellations of activities, parties, and sporting events. The list of changes Covid-19 has made in our world is endless. 

Sacrifices for the Greater Good

The world has banded together and followed the CDC’s guidelines since March of 2020. World governments have signed mandates and legally restricted our interactions to protect the greater good. But, at some point, we have to wonder whether these sacrifices are worth it.

Social Lives 

One of the most obvious sacrifices we’ve made is our social interactions. Due to social distancing, we can no longer interact with others at the grocery store, parties, or job interviews. We no longer shake hands, high-five, or hug. We’ve missed celebrations, sports, and blockbuster releases. 

Social Distancing and Nursing Homes

Diving a little deeper into this effect social distancing has had on our lives, let’s discuss what this sacrifice truly entails. One of the saddest examples I can think of is nursing homes. 6.5% of older adults, 55 and older live in nursing facilities across the world. These individuals suffer from severe social restrictions. Units are locked down, residents are encouraged to remain in their rooms, and visitors are limited or prohibited. 

Even the elderly living at home severely limit their social interactions. They no longer visit the store or attend family gatherings. Our older loved ones are suffering and they may feel completely alone in it. 

Social Distancing and Schools

Another unbelievable restriction on society’s social lives is the lack of in-person learning and activities. Many children still have not returned to 100% in-person learning and those that have must social distance at school. 

Can you imagine the difference? Close your eyes for a moment and picture yourself at school when you were younger. Now imagine the following statements. Desks are six feet apart. Every child is wearing a mask. Markings, six feet apart at cafeteria tables. No outdoor recess because it would be impossible to enforce social distancing. Limited, or absence of extracurricular activities. 

Our children may attend school, they may even learn in a classroom. But, they are missing out on some of the most important life lessons. Younger children are especially suffering. Without social interaction, how are they learning the social skills necessary to get along with others later in life?

Education

In the last section, we discussed how children may be affected by social distancing in schools. Now, let’s discuss the world’s sacrifice of proper education for our children. At this point, some schools have returned to in-person learning, but many still have not. Our children’s education was changed rather abruptly in March of 2020. 

Many schools canceled while the staff worked on a remote learning model. During this time, teachers attempted to communicate with students in online spaces. Schools may have arranged for students to pick up materials, or everything may have been done online. Either way, there were children that we’re unable to complete the lessons. 

Though it may be hard to believe in 2021, there are still households that do not have the internet. Due to the pandemic, libraries were closed for quite a while. For some students, there was no way for them to complete their assignments.

Other households may consist of two working adults. If these children’s parents were fortunate enough to remain in their jobs, they had to find other accommodations for students home during the day. These accommodations may have been a childcare provider, family member, or the parents themselves giving up their position. 

In these situations, the students’ education still suffered. Instead of attending class for eight hours each day, their work was likely being worked into a couple of hours. Or the student may not have had any adult assistance at all. 

These changes in education may result in a one-year setback on our educational system. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing until it is time to deal with the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. At this point, we are still trying to recover from the pandemic itself.

Unity 

The world has given up unity over the course of this pandemic. Many countries have turned on each other and pointed blame. In the United States, our states were not quite as united as they were before. Citizens could no longer travel freely from state to state and state governments battled each other for resources and supplies. 

Even within the boundaries of our own states, we sacrificed our unity. Individuals battled it out for necessary supplies such as; toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes. Others stockpiled these items while others were left with nothing. As a society, we left each other to fend for ourselves. 

Freedom

The final sacrifice we made, especially in the United States was our freedom. In America, we place so much importance and value on our ability to do as we please. We stand by our rights and defend them to the best of our ability. But, this pandemic has made many of us feel as though our rights have been infringed upon. 

Many Americans have questioned whether mandating a mask is the first step to taking our freedoms? State-wide and city-wide curfews have limited our ability to move around. In a way, some Americans feel as though they have given up a small amount of their freedom to protect the many. 

The Second Global Pandemic

The changes and sacrifices that have been brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic may have given life to a second global pandemic. Unlike the first, this second pandemic may not affect our bodies, but our minds. Our bodies may not suffer physically, but many of us may suffer on the inside. 

We are social creatures, we thrive on our social interactions and gain happiness from them. We’ve all heard the saying, “You can’t make anyone else happy, but you can make yourself happy.” Though in a sense, that may be true, we undervalue the effect our kindness has on others. 

The holidays have ended and winter is finally coming to a close, but how many of us get the winter blues? How many of us struggle with depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety? How many of us struggle with mental illness? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 1 in 6 of us struggles with a mental illness.

Throughout this pandemic, we’ve fought our mental illness alone. We’ve managed our mental health alone. There may have been days, where nobody noticed that we weren’t okay. As winter comes to a close and public vaccination is on the horizon, we are still suffering in silence. 

Mental Health Risk Factor Attributed to Covid-19

In a study, Covid-19 Suicides: A Global Psychological Pandemic researchers determined that the following risk factor could contribute to an increase in psychological issues. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused individuals to fear stigma, isolation, economic shutdown, financial insecurity, depression, anxiety, and emotions. 

Financial Hardship 

Financial hardship is a risk factor for mental illness in general. It is terrifying to wonder whether you will have enough money to buy groceries, pay your bills, or remain in your home. Dealing with financial hardship can lead to depression, anxiety, and a reduction in self-esteem. 

The constant stress that accompanies financial hardship may lead to depression or anxiety. But, it’s the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness that reduce our self-esteem. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused the unemployment numbers to explode and the world is dangling on the edge of a recession. 

Isolation 

Isolation is another risk factor of mental illness. Feeling alone can raise feelings of sadness, anger, and fear. Isolation is also known to exacerbate symptoms of mental illness. Frequent and prolonged isolation can reduce the likelihood of discovering an individual has a mental illness and increase the risk of an individual committing suicide. 

The social distancing measures provided by the CDC and society’s fear and hysteria of contracting the virus have led many of us to feel more alone than ever before. 

Stress or Anxiety

Both financial hardship and isolation can cause stress and anxiety. But, our healthcare system is also facing a lot of stress. Healthcare employees are facing long hours, understaffing, and contracting the virus themselves. These individuals are our backbone and they are facing unprecedented working conditions. 

Conclusion

It seems that the end of the Covid-19 pandemic finally seems possible. Companies are curating vaccines that build our immunity and protect us from contracting the virus. With this protection, we may finally be able to return to our normal life. But, with this return to normalcy, let’s remember to treat each other with kindness. Many of us have been fighting the battle of our lives.

Published by alswartz

I am an aspiring novelist working on my first book. I have an interest in mental health and each of my works is related to mental health in some way.

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