COVID Poses Greatest Lasting Threat to Mental Health Since WWII
- December, 28, 2020 - 15:09
- Science news
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The coronavirus pandemic poses the biggest threat to mental health since the Second World War, a psychiatrist warned.
Dr. Adrian James, president of British Royal College of Psychiatrists, explained that the deadly disease, its social impact, and the economic fallout has created a mental health crisis that will take Britain years to recover from.
Up to 10 million people, including 1.5 million children, are believed to need new or additional mental health support as a result of the crisis according to projections by the Centre for Mental Health.
Of this number, 1.3 million are people who have never sought such services before, and 1.8 million require urgent support for moderate to severe anxiety, The Guardian reported.
The stark prediction comes after thousands of Brits had their Christmas cancelled by tough Tier 4 restrictions, days after Boris Johnson said shutting down celebrations would be "frankly inhuman".
"This is going to have a profound effect on mental health," Dr. James said.
“It is probably the biggest hit to mental health since the second world war. It doesn’t stop when the virus is under control and there are few people in hospital. You’ve got to fund the long-term consequences.”
Despite demand for mental health services dropping at the start of the pandemic, data released by NHS Digital reveals that the number of people in contact with mental health services has never been higher.
Some hospital trusts reported that their mental health wards were at capacity.
"The whole system is clearly under pressure," the psychiatrist said.
He believes certain groups, such as the elderly and BAME communities, are most at risk from the devastating mental health crisis.
Although the threat to mental health has been used as an argument against lockdowns, Dr. James stressed the mental health grounds for controlling the virus should not be ignored.
As well as the anxiety associated with fearing infection of coronavirus, becoming infected or loved ones becoming ill can also trigger mental health problems.
Around a fifth of patients who received mechanical ventilation during spring developed post-traumatic stress disorder.
With over 70,000 coronavirus deaths in the UK, many people are dealing with grief from losing people to the virus, especially in such unusual circumstances.
Dr. James also highlighted the impact on patients suffering from "long COVID", as well as those facing unemployment, losing housing and the huge economic slump adding to the load.
Despite the light at the end of the tunnel seeming closer after the vaccine rollout began and the Oxford AstraZeneca team claiming to have come up with the "winning formula", the leading psychiatrist warned we still have a long road ahead.
He urged the government to provide extra funds to mental health services, particularly in the overstretched volunteer sector.
In the six months since social distancing restrictions began in March, Samaritans provided emotional support to callers over 1,200,000 times.
1 in 4 of the calls were someone expressing suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
As some draw on the British stiff upper lip approach to the plights of the pandemic, the post-war repercussions may foreshadow the effects of coronavirus.
"The general principle was that the more death, the greater destruction of housing, the more loss of work, the higher the rates of mental illness," Edgar Jones, professor in the history of medicine and psychiatry at King’s College London, told The Guardian.
“My feeling is that we will see those areas where we’ve had the greatest mortality and the highest rates of infection – which often correspond to areas of greatest deprivation – is where we will have particularly high rates of mental illness.”