It has now been more than three years since the emergence of Covid-19 brought prolonged uncertainty and disruption to our lives.
Human-to-human transmission was confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in January 2020, and the first case was confirmed in Ireland the following month.
Three years ago, as we know it, life stagnated, livelihoods were lost, and childhood was interrupted.
Words that once seemed foreign, such as social distancing and deformity, have become all too familiar in the past 36 months.
It’s hard to imagine that we lost nearly three years of our lives to a pandemic. It is even harder that so far he has killed more than 6.6 million people, according to WHO.
In March 2021, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the massive mental health trauma from the Covid pandemic could surpass that of World War II and continue “for years to come”. I said yes.
“Right now, even this Covid pandemic is growing in scale and affecting more lives. It represents a massive trauma that is disproportionately greater than what the world has experienced since World War II.Thus, mental health issues are not just an issue during the current pandemic. It’s not, it’s a problem for years to come, and countries need to look at it that way and prepare for it.”
In a country like Ireland, this is the first time this generation has seen the raw forces of nature shake the foundations of our way of life.
— Professor Brendan Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin
According to WHO, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% in the first year of the pandemic.
A scientific brief released by the WHO in March showed that the pandemic is impacting the mental health of young people, putting them at risk of suicide and self-harm. It also shows that women are more severely affected than men, and that those with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, cancer and heart disease are more likely to develop symptoms of mental disorders.
“The current information available about the impact of Covid-19 on global mental health is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus. “This is a wake-up call to all countries to pay more attention to mental health and better support the mental health of their citizens.”
Professor Brendan Kelly, author and professor of psychiatry at Trinity College Dublin, commented on the impact of the pandemic on our collective mental health, saying that we are more or less aware of the effects of the pandemic. and its psychological impact is “pervasive and significant”.
“Collective experiences like Covid-19 affect our place in the world and our shared understanding of how predictable that world is. Maybe they feel more uncertain, or they realize how fragile the world has been from the beginning,” said Professor Kelly.
According to Professor Kelly, there are two main issues involved in getting us out of the pandemic. First, people with pre-existing mental illnesses are particularly hard hit by the recurrence of the disease and the lingering effects of poor access to care throughout the pandemic.
Second, he said that many people are “struggling to return to life with the same vigor as before.”
“These are re-entry issues, characterized by reluctance to resume certain activities such as socializing or watching movies, and free-floating fears and anxieties that may be difficult to name in your life. But it can be very real. Being aware of these feelings is the first step to overcoming them.”
In a research paper entitled Impact of Covid-19 on Mental Health in Ireland: Evidence to Date, published in the Irish Medical Journal in December 2020, Professor Kelly writes: A related limitation is that about 1 in 5 people in the general population of Ireland (and elsewhere) has significantly increased psychological distress (anxiety, depression, etc.). Risk factors include being female and living alone. ”
Two years after this article, Professor Kelly says things are improving, but slowly and gradually. “That high level of stress and anxiety does not go away quickly, but subsides over time. and for some people often have substantive problems such as clinical depression. It’s definitely improving, but slowly.”
Asked if our mental health is currently suffering from a pandemic ‘hangover’ and how it manifests, Professor Kelly said: But for many, it’s very real, in a deeper sense of uncertainty about the world.
“In a country like Ireland, this is the first time this generation has seen the raw forces of nature shake the foundations of our way of life. Disease strikes more often than we do, and for many Irish this was the first time a brutal force of nature had struck so hard near their homes.
“It affected our sense of security in the world, our misplaced confidence in our place in the order of things. It’s just a hint of what lies ahead if we don’t address the climate emergency with vigor. .”
People all over the world were affected by the global pandemic, but it was clear early on that the mental health of some parts of society was more adversely affected than others. Certain groups, such as those with pre-existing mental health conditions, were particularly vulnerable.
Professor Kelly explained that during the pandemic, about one in five people in the general population had higher levels of stress, anxiety, or depressive symptoms than they could manage using normal resources. bottom. two fifths.
So it’s important to remember that just as the impact of the pandemic has been more difficult for some, so has the recovery. “For people with pre-existing mental illness, access to services was difficult, and many were at increased risk of Covid-19 itself. more than seven times higher in people with depression or schizophrenia compared with . These are shocking statistics that a diagnosis of mental illness is one of the largest single risk factors for contracting Covid-19. People with mental illness have always been systematically discriminated against in health and social care in all countries of the world. It makes the problem worse, so recovery is very possible, but it will be more difficult,” said Professor Kelly.
The elderly were another sector of society whose mental health was at risk during the pandemic due to factors such as fear of infection, loneliness and social isolation.Department of Geriatric Psychiatry, College of Psychiatry Ireland Prolonged isolation and dependence on others were ‘harmful’ to the self-confidence of older adults, according to experts.
“People in our care share their experiences of altered perceptions of themselves. ‘I never thought of myself as vulnerable.'” Some people have experienced. Forced isolation forced a change in the opposite direction of what was enduringly advised and promoted as part of healthy aging pre-Covid. I was. Elderly people who live alone visit relatives less often, are unable to shop for themselves for fear of infection, and become more dependent on others, which has had a significant impact on people’s self-confidence. Even when they were isolated, there was an element of fear and they were unable to escape the emotional impact of the pandemic, as news and media conversations were dominated by mortality and infection rates.”
For those who are still hesitant about crowds and large events, don’t push yourself too hard.
— Professor Brendan Kelly, Professor of Psychiatry, Trinity College Dublin
The introduction of vaccines and the easing of restrictions, in particular, have provided hope for a normal recovery for the elderly, the faculty said. To maintain good mental health over the next few months, they advise older people should try to stay as active as possible. “Stay active, take care of your cardiovascular health, eat well, don’t smoke, drink in moderation, and stay connected. bad for
We, as a society, have learned the ill effects of social isolation and hope that we can plan a more socially engaged and connected society in the future.
According to Professor Kelly, the pandemic has generally increased emotional distress across the population, led to relapses in some people with pre-existing mental illnesses, and heightened the need for mental health in certain groups. said that this “must be balanced against the abundant evidence of strength, resilience and adaptability seen during the pandemic.”
“Before Covid-19, there was a global pandemic that killed millions of people, put societies on lockdown, effectively brought the economy to a halt, closed schools and canceled international travel. I would have imagined that if someone had told me that I would be despondent, no one would have been able to handle such a situation, I would have been wrong, our resilience and coping mechanisms It has proven to be more powerful than I thought. Many people have psychological problems, and some still do, but an equal number or more do not. We’re stronger than we think. We’ve always been stronger, but we didn’t realize it until now.”
Looking ahead, Professor Kelly said the best way to manage your mental health in the coming months is to remember that mental health and physical health are inextricably intertwined. “My best advice is to exercise, watch your diet, and reintegrate into society at your own pace. You shouldn’t overdo it, but you should make a lot of small efforts to get a little bit closer, a little more distance, and take small steady steps to enjoy the social activities you enjoyed before Covid. It takes time, but it takes time.”