Flashback: How COVID-19 Changed Our Perception of Mental Health

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Flashback: How COVID-19 Changed Our Perception of Mental Health | Photo credit: iStock images

Highlights

  • Isolation, quarantine and other measures applied to curb coronavirus transmission have precipitated mental health problems
  • Being in good mental or emotional shape is more than being free from depression or other psychological issues.
  • Here’s how we’ve improved and what we can do to improve mental health this year

New Delhi: The COVID-19 pandemic has had immense impacts on our lives. The effects of the lockdown and other measures implemented to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) on mental health are alarming, especially for young people hardest hit by pandemic loneliness. Young people under the age of 30 and those with pre-existing mental health issues experienced the highest levels of loneliness during lockdown, according to a recent study. Experts have warned that the current pandemic could lead to a global mental health crisis. Yet we cannot deny the fact that there has been an increased willingness to accept mental health as an essential part of one’s overall well-being.

Perhaps “taking care of your mental health” caught the public’s attention during the pandemic with news portals, especially medical news sites, featuring a variety of mental health topics ranging from ‘Treating COVID-related anxiety’ to managing ‘post-COVID stress disorder’ ‘. The stigma surrounding mental health is quickly breaking down as more celebrities and famous people speak out about their struggles with depression and anxiety. Many people now download mindfulness and meditation apps to their phones to improve their mental health. In short, we have come a long way, even if we still have a long way to go!

We spoke with Dr Anuneet Sabharwal, Consultant Psychiatrist, Founder and Director of The Happy Tree, Delhi, to reflect on how the coronavirus pandemic has changed our view of mental health. Read on.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic transformed the way we talk about mental health?

Dr Anuneet Sabharwal: People who previously underestimated or misunderstood mental health issues have started to take them more seriously due to the surge in mental health issues due to blockages imposed around the world. There have been immense changes, including the way mainstream society views mental health, as many people faced such issues themselves during the lockdown.

How have we improved or what has helped advance our awareness of mental health as an essential part of overall health and well-being, and where do you think we need to do better?

Dr Anuneet Sabharwal: The coronavirus pandemic has certainly brought humanity closer together, opened doors of communication where there were none, and made the world a much smaller, more connected place. We need to work on our acceptance of others and their life choices, recognize their difficulties and support them as much as possible. We need to get rid of the stigma that surrounds mental health.

What should we do to build better mental health?

Dr Anuneet Sabharwal: We can improve or build better mental health by following the rule of moderating everything, and doing nothing too much. It can be applied to all of our indulgences, social interactions and choices.

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