Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

/Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

2020-12-31T19:50:14-05:00December 11th, 2020|

By Ashish Joshi, Ritika Kaur and Surapaneni Krishna Mohan

CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy, New York
Foundation of Healthcare Technologies Society, New Delhi
SMAART PHIC Foundation of Healthcare Technologies Society and Panimalar Medical College Hospital & Research Institute, Chennai


The emergence of COVID-19 disease caused by the novel SARS-Cov-2 virus is an ongoing major public health crisis. Nearly 62 million cases and 1 million fatalities due to COVID-19 reported globally until date.1 The World Health Organisation declared the disease as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ on 30th January 2020.2 Research indicates that the widespread outbreaks of infectious diseases may have a detrimental effect on the mental health of the general population.3

The aftermath of outbreaks is associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, stress, insomnia and other psychological conditions.4

However, while high priority given to the physical health issues, the mental health issues are profoundly neglected.5 Therefore, the authors decided to compile this report in order to address the impact of COVID-19 on mental health of the general population around the world.

Mental health impact of COVID-19

The existing literature suggests that 16 to 28% of anxiety and depression, followed by 8% of self-reported stress along with insomnia, are attributable to COVID-19 and linked to substantial fiscal impact and social disruption.2, 3

High number of COVID-19 confirmed cases and fatalities increased the burden on healthcare services leading to medical and protective equipment shortage.2   As a result, doubt and fear among the healthy population as well as the population with pre-existing mental health conditions has increased.2,6 This state of fear and feeling under pressure is also reflected among the frontline healthcare workers.7

In addition, we have had a constant stream of overwhelming news headlines and photos as well as false rumours and misleading information spread which only helped increase the fear and anxiety and lead into massive purchases of basic necessities and health products leading to a shortage which added to the issue as people worried over that.2,8 Adding to all these, came the reaction towards the individuals recovered from the disease who were subjected to societal rejection and discrimination that may result in loneliness and low mood.2 The above factors have led to an increase in mental health issues either by creating new patients or by magnifying the problem for many of those who were already mentally ill.8 This may increase the risk of developing infections and a broad range of health issues including, but not limited to, tobacco smoking, consumption of alcohol and drug abuse.2,8

Consequently, the deadly coronavirus disease is not only harming the physical health but also the mental health of population around the globe. There is a need for setting up of online or telephonic mental health counselling services involving cognitive behavioural therapy sessions and strengthening social capital to reduce mental health impact of disease.2,9,10

The Government of Indonesia have effectively provided online healthcare services through 119 hotlines during the coronavirus outbreak.11 Similarly, a quantitative study conducted in Hong Kong showed that telephonic intervention is the safest means to communicate with patients during coronavirus outbreak.10 However, the telephonic mode provided only limited information to the patients and did not address the problems of the community.10,11 Hence, optimum online mental health services are required to address the mental health issues of people. This has been proven successful during the coronavirus outbreak in China in 2003 which enabled the health authorities and mental health professionals to work proficiently.9,10 In addition, the online counselling sessions have been in place through the use of Whatsapp, Zoom cloud meetings, Google hangouts, and other platforms.11 Furthermore, several mental health professionals have developed educational and awareness materials to overcome the burden of health issues through brochures, websites, YouTube videos, and online sessions.11

In conclusion, it is essential to identify mental health issues, formulate guidelines and effective online therapeutic strategies and utilize them. Further research on the subject may be beneficial, particularly in the vulnerable groups as well as further exploring the use and effectiveness of appropriate and accessible technologies to provide healthcare to patients during an outbreak.

Tools and resources for mental health and psychological support during COVID-19

The coronavirus disease has disrupted lives around the world and many countries still have stay-at-home order in place taking a toll on mental health of the communities. Thus, several governments and organisations have provided recommendations and infographics to help address the emerging mental health issues. This would benefit the communities and able them to care for their mental, emotional, and psychological wellbeing. The following tools and resources emphasise various evidence-based self-care and coping strategies to reduce the stress associated with COVID-19 pandemic.

Non-governmental organizations

    1. World Health Organisation (WHO)

The WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Use has developed mental health and psychosocial support materials such as recommendations and informational graphics for general population to cope up with stress during COVID-19. The guidelines particularly focus on the vulnerable populations such as healthcare workers, managers and leaders of healthcare facilities, carers of children and people with underlying conditions, older adults, and people in isolation.12,13

    1. Mental Health Europe

Mental Health Europe is a European non-governmental network organisation devoted towards promoting positive mental health, preventing mental distress, advocacy for social inclusion, improving care, and protecting the rights of users of mental health services, persons with psychosocial disabilities, their families, and caretakers. With its 30 years of advocacy it has active role in mainstreaming mental health in all policies, mental-health friendly policies and in bring an end to mental health stigma for which it is associated with European Institutions and international bodies. During pandemic, the organisation has successfully provided good mental health and positive wellbeing considerations to overcome the disease threat and ease anxiety among people.14

    1. Mental Health Foundation

Mental Health Foundation holds a vision of good mental health for all at a global level. They believe that prevention is they keystone of their foundation as it will help in achieving their mission of helping people understand, protect, and sustain their mental health. Their knowledge, informed by meticulous research and practical based study, has been able to bring about revolutionary change for more than 70 years. The organisation has been a part of the national mental health response during the pandemic and provided mental health considerations to people experiencing potential threat to their physical health.15

Governmental Organizations

    1. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Everyone responds differently to stressful conditions. In addition to the people with existing mental health illnesses, people who are likely to be affected during pandemic include children, teenagers, caregivers, healthcare workers, unemployed, disabled, socially isolated, homeless, and minority communities.  Hence, the CDC helps vulnerable populations to cope with stress in a healthy way by providing them with stress management tips and considerations, and maps to locate federally qualified health centers for seeking care. The helpline services for stress and suicide prevention such as SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress helpline and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are also in place for people experiencing negative effects on behaviour. Most importantly, the CDC has provided the facts about COVID-19 to prevent the spread of rumours around COVID-19 disease and reduce stress, anxiety, and stigma among public.16,17

    1. S. Department of Health & Human Services

The federal agencies along with partners have been successful in creating a repository of COVID-19 behavioural health resources to protect public’s physical and behavioural health in response to pandemic. These resources target the healthcare workers and carers of children, disabled, and sick persons and prepare them to overcome the negative behavioural effects that can affect their efficiency to provide good quality services.18

    1. Government of Canada (Health Canada)

The Government of Canada delivers an Employee Assistance Program in place which offers telephonic and online counselling services for employees seeking help. In addition to this, Health Canada is a federal institution that provides counselling support to employees affected by demanding workplace environments. These specialised organisational services are accompanied by grief and loss support in the context of ongoing COVID-19 crisis.19

    1. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

The NIMH is one of the 27 Organizations that forms up the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is the lead federal agency for research on mental disorders. NIMH has built up on the vision of a world where mental health illnesses are prevented and cured. Its objective incorporates transformation of the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research thereby building the road towards prevention, recovery, and cure of mental illnesses. They have developed shareable informational graphics and social media messages based on the latest research which aid in spreading mental health awareness in response to stress and connect with others.20

Not for Profit Organizations

    1. Anxiety UK

Anxiety UK is a national registered dedicated, friendly, and approachable charity formed by Katharine and Harold Fisher in 1970. The organisation has provided Coronanxiety support and resources comprising of webinars to assist in managing stress, anxiety-based depression, and phobia that is affecting daily life of public during the ongoing crisis.21

    1. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

AFSP is a voluntary health organization that has hailed 30 years of service to the suicide prevention movement. It is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide by providing a nationwide community empowered by research, education, and advocacy during COVID-19. Its core activities include. The organisation has Crisis Text Line and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in place to educate survivors of suicide loss and those affected by suicide about mental health and suicide prevention.22

    1. Mental Health America (MHA)

MHA is a leading community-based non-profit committed to focus on the needs of the population living with mental illness and supporting the mental health of all. Through advocacy, education, research, and services MHA’s initiatives accomplish its purpose of averting mental illness. MHA eases better understanding of prevention, early diagnosis, and intervention through a variety of knowledgeable information, online tools, and events. They have an online mental health screening tool in place since 2017 which is a scientifically validated, discreet, and helps people to improve knowledge base about their own mental health free of cost. To further develop policy recommendations, they have collaborations with a wide audience of affiliates that stimulate their mission. MHA also works towards peer advocacy and intends to protect the rights and dignity of individuals with lived experience and make certain that peers and their voices integrated into all domains of the organization.23

    1. British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)

BACP is a professional association for members of the counselling professions in the United Kingdom. Its philosophy is built on promoting and enabling research to generate entrusted best practice, and by providing a robust framework to make certain the profession pursues and sticks to the highest achievable standards that protect individuals seeking therapy. The organisation has provided self-isolation coping strategies for public to care for their mental wellbeing during coronavirus crisis.24,25


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