The possibility of a post-pandemic crisis is here and we are ignorant of it

The worst leveller we have probably had in a decade is the coronavirus disease, COVID-19. It has shattered economies, change mindsets and habits, forced societies to social distancing, caused organisations to rethink their work from home stance, reformed – and deformed – relationships. Talk about the pandemic that made the world standstill. The force with which COVID-19 entered our daily conversations and lives came with too much power, that not too many people were prepared for. So, if you are feeling some COVID-19 stress caused by that ‘force’, you’re not alone.

With over 23 million cases worldwide and hundreds of thousands of deaths, stress levels will naturally increase, with many people already experiencing higher levels than others. It is no news that natural disasters have been reported to cause a spike in mental health issues, we should, therefore, not be surprised when health specialists mention that there’s a chance of a mental health crisis post-pandemic. We can already see how different people have been affected differently.

For people who have contracted the coronavirus, the dilemma is most obvious. Research shows that the uncertainty over the course the illness takes puts these people at risk of developing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Even after recovery, these symptoms do not go away. Although it is too early to tell the long-term effects of coronavirus, some recovered patients around the world have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Health workers at the frontline have also reported symptoms of depression and anxiety. While trying to ensure they don’t spread the coronavirus to their loved ones, they work long shifts, lack protective equipment, all capped by sadness over the death of patients.

The economic impact of the pandemic allows for more anxiety, with the Minister of Finance already hinting at a possible recession. A lot of businesses have shut down, some others struggle to stay up. Unemployment rates have increased, families can hardly to feed. COVID-19 is not what the country needs right now.

And when we think of physical contact – and conversations – as a proactive measure to cope with mental stress, we too begin to get stressed out. Yes, social media helps maintain some level of connection but even social media brings its own mental health implications such as self-esteem issues, sleep problems and so on.

One can only imagine what people with pre-existing mental health conditions are going through at this time. And since access to treatment has reduced, we should be thinking of worsened situations. Like many other ‘ignored’ diseases due to ensuring we stop the spread of COVID-19, neglecting mental illnesses will lead to a post-pandemic mental health crisis.

As the UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres said, in a recently published article on:

Unless we act now to address the mental health needs associated with the pandemic, there will be enormous long-term consequences for families, communities and societies.”

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