COVID – 19, Mental Health and the LOCKDOWN
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, many people’s mental health suffered. The local and federal governments told us to limit physical contact with people outside our homes to control coronavirus. We only left the house if necessary. For schooling, the children were kept at home and learned by using their personal computers. Only a few people could enter the grocery store at a time. We were running low on toilet tissue and disinfectants. Did I forget to mention that we had to wear a mask outside our home? As 2020 rolled in, so did COVID-19. No one could have ever imagined that we would experience a lockdown in the coming weeks.
Many people shared similar feelings about the lockdown. When the restrictions were lifted, some were able to adjust to the new normal and report positive experiences during the lockdown. Unfortunately, some people had more difficulty while the lockdown was in place and continue to suffer from mental and emotional issues.
POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH IMPACT of the COVID -19 LOCKDOWN
Positive things happened due to the lockdown resulting in a healthy mental status. For example, people that worked from home may have lowered their commuting, eating out, and entertainment costs. In addition, by teleworking and keeping their salary, some experienced a positive cash flow. More money can promote a positive mental state. In contrast, lower household income has been associated with mood changes and anxiety. Therefore, people who experienced this scenario may have noticed an improvement in their mental health due to increased disposable income.
Avoiding crowded places motivated many people to cook more. Bypassing fast-food restaurants and bars resulted in some people eating healthier. The trade-off of fast food for healthy home-cooked meals can improve a person’s mood. Eating a diet of processed foods and sugar without fresh fruits and vegetables can increase the risk of depression.
The lockdown gave us a chance to spend more time with the family. This extra time was an opportunity to strengthen family ties and create new memories. Spending time with family and friends can help to reduce stress.
A healthy mental state is more likely with emotional support from family and social relations. Also, more time was available to focus on self-improvement activities such as catching up on reading, improving cooking, gardening skills, and exercising. More time for meditation and reflection was also available during the lockdown. Meditation can result in deep relaxation helping with anxiety and depression.
NEGATIVE IMPACTS of COVID-19 LOCKDOWN
Many people started having new or worsened mental and emotional problems during the lockdown. Children, adolescents, and adults were affected. People already seeing a therapist may have delayed going to their doctor due to the fear of catching COVID-19. This delay may have resulted in the symptoms getting worse. Losing a job and insurance coverage made seeing a mental health doctor hard for many people leaving emotional issues unresolved. In addition, dealing with mental illness can cause more anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Left unchecked, these symptoms can become overwhelming.
Losing income resulted in more stress. Less money can increase existing and new mental illness symptoms. People having difficulty adjusting to the lockdown experienced anxiety and poor concentration. Poor work performance, depression, and insomnia also occurred. Additionally, being under a lockdown for a long time, boredom and the fear of catching COVID-19 did not help to improve people’s mood. Not having enough information on COVID added to the stress people experienced.
NEGATIVE IMPACT on CHILDREN and ADOLESCENTS
Children and teenagers had a hard time adjusting to the lockdown. They were no longer able to attend school. There were fewer play dates or visits to grandmothers’ houses. They had to learn to use ZOOM and communicate with their teachers over the computer. Some children’s concerns were not connecting with the way school material was presented.
Getting and using the technology needed for learning was also a concern. Parents took on the role of teacher, which, for many, made for a stressful home environment. A stressful home environment can cause negative moods in children and adolescents.
Some children in homes with domestic abuse issues relied on school staff for support. The time at school was an escape from a hostile home environment. Children and adolescents lost this support during the lockdown. The loss resulted in poor mental health. Losing contact with everyone they usually see in their day-to-day life resulted in feelings of loneliness for this age group.
Missing friends and school increased anxiety and depression. Not having freedom, extracurricular activities, or parties affected their mental and emotional health. Having challenges with homeschooling, and missing extended family were trials many children and adolescents experienced during the lockdown. Older children had trouble concentrating and often wanted information regarding COVID. Other mental health problems included sleep problems, nightmares, anxiety, and eating less.
NEGATIVE IMPACT on SPECIAL POPULATIONS
People experience anxiety and depressed moods from time to time. When a person’s lifestyle changes, these feelings can occur more often. Battling mental illness on top of that can be overwhelming. The lockdown caused many people to have feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. As a result, the lockdown put many adults at risk for poor mental health. However, a specific group within the adult population was more sensitive to changes in mental stability.
Temporary lockdowns can have lasting effects on the elderly population. During the lockdown, they were more vulnerable physically and mentally. It is common for the elderly to be depressed. If the elderly are depressed, it can lead to problems with their mental function and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Seeing a mental health doctor may have been delayed or avoided due to restrictions.
The fear of catching the virus was also a factor. The elderly population was highly likely to not do well if they were infected with this strain of coronavirus. The lockdown in nursing homes did not allow visitors. Some elderly were isolated in their homes to protect themselves from the virus. Some of the elderly had family support and others did not.
In either instance, they were susceptible to changes in their mental state. This isolation in the elderly would increase the risk of mental illness. Missing family, feeling isolated and lacking social activities were experienced due to the lockdown restrictions. These experiences may have led to loneliness, depression, and changes in behavior.
FUTURE STATE of MENTAL HEALTH RELATED to the COVID -19 LOCKDOWN
The mental health problems caused by the lockdown may continue for some time to come. For children, having the chance to see a mental health doctor is essential to improve their feelings and mood. Everyone needs to be able to see a mental health doctor to take care of their COVID-related mental and emotional issues. Parents need to recognize their children’s mental health needs and take action to help resolve the problems.
For example, limiting the news children watch is important. Giving them age-appropriate need-to-know facts about COVID helps keep their mental health stable. Parents learning to use solid coping mechanisms is helpful to children. Being present and participating in positive activities with children can be helpful. Giving positive reassurance to children is also helpful in promoting good mental health.
Parents should be role models for adolescents by using coping mechanisms and problem-solving techniques. Using good communication and encouraging artistic interests helps improve their mental health. Parents taking care of their own mental health can be helpful in dealing with the mental stability of adolescents’. Seeing a therapist can help adolescents deal with their mental health challenges.
To improve mental health after the lockdown, adults can make lifestyle changes. First, there should be a clear divide between work and non-work times. Allow time for self-care. Start doing activities that bring you happiness. Second, set times to spend with those you love if you experience loneliness. Reaching out to family and friends and journaling can also help improve mental health. Third, exercising, meditation, and setting realistic expectations can help with low motivation and problems concentrating. Finally, eating a healthy diet and routinely exercising can help with stress and sleep issues.
The lockdown was necessary to protect the health of the community. Although safety precautions can have unwanted effects, the benefits may outweigh the risks. It was not the intention of the powers that be to damage people’s mental health, but it happened. COVID surges come in waves, and we may find ourselves under the threat of another lockdown. If we learned anything from the lockdown, we know there has to be consideration taken for people’s mental health. There must be a balance between physical and mental health needs to keep a healthy, stable mental state. We also must do our part and take action to protect our mental health before, during, and after government-sanctioned protective measures like a lockdown.
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