OPINION: How Covid-19 is starting a Mental Health War

OPED BY DANIELLA MONTEZUMA-BACIGALUPO

It’s bizarre to think that we are the generation that will have “survived” the COVID-19 pandemic. If this is what you call surviving? With over one million people  dead across the U.S. , a healthy healthcare system is rightly the biggest priority for everyone. But something has been  missing from the conversation: An underfunded, neglected area of health that is impacting people as much as the physical virus is: Mental health care.

What many fail to realize is that COVID-19 hasn’t only been affecting us physically but psychologically too. Isolation, physical distancing, unemployment, and huge economic loss are just a few of the mental stressors that this virus has triggered. We are going through a mental crisis, and we need mental health care now.

As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, I can say that this pandemic has increased both of these conditions. I know I am not alone. Others who suffer from anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even agoraphobia, have truly met their match with this virus. All the fears they’ve worked through they are now facing them eye to eye.

With the unemployment rates getting higher and an economic recession about to hit, many people are experiencing increased amounts of anxiety. The unemployment rate in Canada has hit a record high of 13.7 per cent. The amount of financial strain many Canadians are going through since their job loss has skyrocketed increasing many mental health issues.

Isolation and physical distancing have also put many into a state of depression. Research has proven that touch deprivation negatively impacts our mental health. Then you need to add the fear of your loved one possibly getting sick and dying, and that you can’t see them or even visit them in a hospital.

Different forms of traumas are also taking place behind closed doors. Social workers have documented that child abuse and domestic abuse are on the rise during this pandemic. “Normally when women are leaving, they do so when their abuser is at work. Now he’s not at work. He’s right there,” says Fazia Mohammed a community program manager at Interval House Toronto. As more people have lost their jobs, more people are staying home, thus increasing the vulnerability of victims, she says.

It’s clear that the pandemic is posing a threat to the emotional welfare of the general public. With this state of limbo, mental health is slowly deteriorating. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, three times more adults in April 2020 reported being in psychological distress than in April 2018.

The World Health Organization conducted a survey which showed that 93 per cent of countries worldwide have reported that their access to mental health services have either been disrupted or stopped entirely.

There needs to be more action. We need to allocate those funds to our mental health care system. Mental health isn’t a one-time health affliction with an easy cure. It’s a long road for many people that requires years of help and resources that we don’t seem to ever receive. The system is broken, and we need to fix it.

Years down the road, when we start describing our experiences living through COVID-19 to the next generation, we’ll be reminded that we were the generation that “survived”. Let’s become the generation that makes the changes we really NEED to survive.

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