Researchers see ‘urgent’ need to study mental health effects of COVID-19

Researchers see urgent need to study mental health effects of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the mental well-being of people in communities under lockdown.

As such, researchers are saying that while the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the impact of the pandemic on people’s mental well-being, more research is needed to study its potentially deep and long-term impacts.

Researchers: ‘Urgent’ need to address mental health consequences

According to a position paper published by Lancet Psychiatry:

“There is an urgent need for research to address how mental health consequences for vulnerable groups can be mitigated under pandemic conditions, and on the impact of repeated media consumption and health messaging around COVID-19.”

The paper further urged that “funders and researchers […] deploy resources to understand the psychological, social, and neuroscientific effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

As of now, researchers have observed that the studies on the pandemic’s mental health impact are still “fragmented.”

If it remains so, it “will not yield the clear insights necessary to guide policy-makers or the public,” said the researchers.

Studies needed on mental health effects of pandemic

Depression during lockdowns

Symptoms of anxiety and stress have been on the rise in communities where lockdowns are strictly imposed. The researchers noted that if these protocols are prolonged, there is a risk that the occurrence of depression and self-harm could increase.

Professor Ed Bullmore, head of the department of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, said:

“Our key message is that COVID is likely to have major impacts on mental health now and into the future and we need to start thinking about that immediately.”

Professor Rory O’Connor, one of the researchers, said that addressing the present situation will benefit from a review of the outbreaks. He said:

“If we look at the SARS outbreak in 2003, we know there is evidence there that there were increased rates of anxiety, increased rates of depression and post-traumatic stress and, in some groups, there were also increased rates of suicide.”

Movement restriction as a controversial measure

The pandemic pushed many countries all over the world to impose draconian measures such as lockdowns and international travel bans. While it is controversial, China’s implementation of the lockdown has been touted by the WHO to be effective in slowing down the spread of the virus in the country.

Similar protocols are in place for countries such as Italy and the Philippines. According to an article published by Time Magazine, chief among the criticisms against such protocol is that it “indiscriminately infringes on civil liberties.”

Dale Fisher, professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore, said that while a lockdown is extreme, it is the commensurate response to the situation.

According to some experts, countries cannot risk easing their movement restrictions this early, because there might be a “second wave” of infections.

Given these facts, the possibility that these measures would be prolonged is not off the table.

Hopefully, public health measures could give a more unified attention to mental health concerns brought by lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

Images courtesy of Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas/Pexels, Elina Krima/Pexels

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