Mental Health During the Pandemic

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Mental Health During the Pandemic

Mental health during a pandemic often includes an increase in anxiety and depression. It may also include suicidal thoughts or attempts, impulsivity or substance use issues, as well as difficulties with relationships. These challenges can be caused by various factors such as fear of contracting the coronavirus, social and economic stressors, service discontinuity or lack of access to care.

Throughout the pandemic, many countries have taken measures to address mental health concerns. These include providing adequate resources for mental health and substance use disorders, providing support to those already diagnosed with mental illness, and improving access to telehealth services and mental healthcare. Furthermore, several WHO member states have prioritized developing and disseminating resources designed to assist different groups cope with the effects of the pandemic on their mental wellbeing.

World Health Organization and its partners prioritized mental health during the early days of the pandemic, and this continues to be a top priority today. Collecting data on mental health is essential in order to identify long-term patterns as well as effects of the pandemic on vulnerable groups and communities.

Self-reported mental health measures are commonly employed to measure the impact of a pandemic and are increasingly being collected in large domestic and international surveys. Unfortunately, measuring these symptoms accurately remains challenging; self-reported problems vary widely and may be subject to methodological bias or sample heterogeneity, without necessarily representing clinical caseness levels for depression or anxiety.

There has been an uptick in self-reported mental health problems among all adults (aged 18+) during the pandemic, particularly among those who had never been ill or received treatment for mental illness before. These results are small but statistically significant, with pooled effect sizes ranging from 0.07 to 0.27.

Young adults are at greater risk for mental health issues during the pandemic than all other adults, and they are more likely to report beginning or increasing substance abuse and suicidal ideation. These effects could be compounded due to disruptions to their plans for higher education or career as well as financial strains caused by job loss or reduced income.

Essential workers are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues than non-essential workers, with a higher likelihood of suicidal thoughts and symptoms from anxiety or depressive disorder during the pandemic. This may be because medical professionals have been exposed to the virus for longer than other healthcare workers and therefore face greater strains from their jobs.

Evidence indicates the COVID-19 pandemic has had a lasting impact on mental health in vulnerable populations, such as children, older adults, people with preexisting mental disorders, those who are unemployed and women of childbearing age. These groups have suffered disproportionately high coronavirus cases and deaths and may be less likely to seek mental health care or receive it when necessary. This has lead to an increased rate of unmet mental health needs – particularly among Black and Hispanic adults.

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