learn about COVID-19, its impact, and what you can do about it.
Quarantine precautions have been put in place across the globe. Although these are necessary safety advisories, it can be tremendously frustrating and inefficient for those at home. Mental health is especially an important topic during this time. One can see the effect quarantine burdens on people by analyzing data recorded during the SARS disease (or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003. A study in Canada “found a high prevalence of psychological distress symptoms. Twenty-nine percent of participants reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress and 31 percent of respondents reported symptoms of depression. Participants in this study described a sense of isolation and were particularly affected by the lack of social and physical contact with family members." It is reported that quarantine can increase stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits/exhaustion, unhealthy lifestyles, insomnia, and other psychological distress symptoms. “Humans are social animals, and being isolated can have a big impact on our health, says Zlatin Ivanov, MD, a New York-based psychiatrist.” Quarantine, however, has resulted in extreme isolation and separation. The stress of the virus in addition to being limited in social interactions can have detrimental effects on mental health. It is important to take active steps to prevent a negative impact on mental health. Making wise and safe choices and keeping in contact with friends and family can prevent the deterioration of mental health during the pandemic.
Even more greatly affected are those combatting the virulence of COVID-19: the healthcare workers. Using the data collected during the SARS epidemic, it is clear to see that healthcare workers faced the worst psychological distress symptoms out of the general public. When quarantined, the general public exhibited less severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress than health care workers. Health-care workers had contracted significantly worse symptoms in all aspects. They experienced greater stigma, exhibited more avoidance after quarantine, reported a greater loss of income and greater psychological impact. Taylor et al. also reported “increased anger, annoyance, fear, frustration, guilt, helplessness, isolation, loneliness, nervousness, sadness, worry, and were less happy.” Healthcare workers are put through stressful situations each day while having to continue to stress about their own health. In their line of work, they are forced to see the despair of COVID-19 patients daily. Many are forced to rush to the aid of the tremendous amount of COVID-19 patients; time to cope with what they have experienced is limited and scarce. In addition, healthcare workers are constantly working during the pandemic, even when they lack a sufficient amount of supplies. Hospitals don’t have enough supplies that are needed for patients and doctors during the pandemic. Masks and gloves are necessary for healthcare workers, however, these are in short supply. “Older staff reported increased stress due to exhaustion due to prolonged work hours and lack of personal protective equipment.” Healthcare workers are especially stressed about their own health and their chances of contracting the virus. While they are doing their best to treat COVID-19 patients and other patients, they also don’t want to unexpectedly get the virus and accidentally spread it to those they love. “Among the studies included in the review, the mean age of the medical staff ranged between 26–40 years, and the predominant participants in 4 studies were females (68.7 %–85.5 %). Lai J, 2020 showed that being a woman and possessing an intermediate professional title was associated with higher anxiety, depression, and distress (Lai et al., 2020)." Healthcare workers with families were worried about infecting relatives while those without families were equally as worried for their health. “Medical staff aged 31–40 years were more worried about infecting their families whereas in staff>50 years of age patient’s death caused more stress. In staff aged 41–50 years, factors like worry regarding their safety were also important.”
COVID-19 caught everyone by surprise and greatly affected the livelihoods of many. Healthcare providers were forced to work overtime in harsh conditions. Although the situation is difficult for healthcare workers, we can help them, on small and large scales. People must remember the daily sacrifices those in the healthcare/medical field make for the community to fight against COVID-19 and protect everyone. “Acknowledgement by the community of health care workers role in saving lives, has a salutary effect on their morale.” Giving acknowledgment allows the healthcare workers to understand that we appreciate them and all they have done to help fight COVID-19. Support healthcare workers by donating masks and gloves to hospitals, posting about doctors and encouraging their work, and by sending mail (letters, drawings, etc.) to them. Although this time is hard for everyone, we must remember that we are all facing this together and that we are fighting COVID-19 together.
Written by Isabel Philip
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