Mental health toll from Covid may last a generation: Experts

While Covid has affected people physically and economically, the pandemic has also increased mental health issues globally, and these may continue till a generation, experts have said.

Globally, psychologists and psychiatrists are reporting an influx of people seeking mental health support during the pandemic, CNBC reported.

The increase in anxiety and depression is seen in both new and old patients.

“I have never been as busy in my life and I’ve never seen my colleagues as busy,” Valentine Raiteri, a psychiatrist working in New York, was quoted as saying.

Numerous studies on the impact of Covid on mental health have been carried out. One study, published in The Lancet medical journal in October, looked at the global prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, the report said.

Surprisingly, it found that mental health dramatically declined in that year, even after an estimated 53 million additional cases of major depressive disorders and 76 million additional cases of anxiety disorders seen globally.

The experts explained that in the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, there was little understanding of how long the pandemic would last.

While there was a surprising amount of resilience during the first few months of the virus’ outbreak, Raiteri said that over time, the loss of daily social contact started to take its toll.

“There’s definitely a huge mental health impact from a long period of uncertainty and change that’s left people very isolated and not sure how to connect. Just being out in public and interacting in a very casual way with strangers or mild acquaintances, that’s very regulating, and norm-creating and reality affirming,” he noted.

Further, the pandemic meant that many people had to confront issues in their life that they’d been able to avoid before, such as alcoholism, relationship issues, isolation and loneliness, Natalie Bodart, a London-based clinical psychologist and head of The Bodart Practice, was quoted as saying.

“Our day to day lives serve as great defense mechanisms, we have lots of distractions that help us to avoid things, for good and for ill,” she said.

According to Katherine Preedy, a clinical psychologist based near London, “this is a whole generation (that’s been affected by Covid), it’s two years of our lives, I think this will have a big impact”.

“There may be first responders, people in hospitals, who are still very much in that survival mode, and then, there’s obviously the emotional impact on people, whole industries being lost, the health (impact),” Preedy was quoted as saying.

She noted that mental health professionals are also under pressure to help a greatly increased number of patients.

Alex Desatnik, a consultant clinical psychologist in the UK, told CNBC that he believes it will take “at least a generation” to resolve the damage to many young people caused by missed milestones and experiences crucial for development, the report said.

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