While the world has been struggling to find ways to flatten the curve that represents the infection rates of the novel coronavirus, there is one health concern that we have not yet put much emphasis on – mental health. The battle against the disease ends when we finally find an effective vaccine, but the battle against rising mental issues during the lockdown will continue for a much longer period. Social isolation, losing jobs and businesses and trying to cope with the uncertainty in this situation has given rise to heightened levels of stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, suicide and many other problems that need more than a vaccine or a pill to heal.

The rise of the “significant” other – suicide and other mental issues during the pandemic

Although most of us try to dust mental health issues under the carpet, some of these issues have already started to raise their head in the form of depression, domestic violence and child abuse. This, along with multiple incidents of suicide by sufferers showcase that the disease has started to take its toll on our mental health in a major way.

Heightened rates of depression and panic-related suicide were already noticed during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19. A similar pattern was noticed during the 2003 SARS epidemic amongst the elderly in Hong Kong. Suicide levels are also exacerbated due to COVID-19-related stigma and rampant misinformation due to rumours and speculations on social media.

Stressors all around us prevent the flattening of the curve

For those who are employed and are working from home, excessive workload, unrealistic expectations and high-stress levels have been largely attributed due to inexperienced management and the immensely popular startup culture. This was elucidated in our previous article about changing expectations from employees to manage productivity. As people get overworked, their performance levels fall and they end up being at risk of losing their jobs or being demoted, causing further stress, anxiety and depression, which leads to an omnipresent stressor that leaves no room for recovery.

Overwhelmed health facilities are unable to cope with mental health issues

All these signs point towards the effect that the coronavirus pandemic is having on our physical and mental health. However, as governments around the world scramble to get all hands on deck to control the spread of infection in the community, it leaves them with very little room to focus on the larger picture of dealing with the onslaught of mental health issues that will plague us for many years to come.

What can you do to cope during the isolation?

This article is the first part of our series on mental health and is a precursor to targeted information about mental well-being and coping strategies during these trying times. Our next article deals with the most difficult part of this crisis – accepting the fact that we’re anxious, depressed or stressed. Acceptance is the first step towards getting help and working on coping strategies that will work towards flattening the mental illness curve during and after this pandemic.