Growing Mental Health Crisis Due To Coronavirus Pandemic

Even though mental health is an important part of human rights, it is often a neglected issue as opposed to the emphasis on physical and economic wellbeing. During the current coronavirus pandemic, many of the society’s most vulnerable suffer not only from the direct effects of the disease such as catching it, losing one’s job, or not being able to socialise, but also from the anxiety that comes with it. The United Nations warns of a mental health crisis throughout the world caused by the current pandemic.

U.N. Security General, António Guterres, has been raising awareness of the importance of mental health in our everyday life, which has been disturbed by COVID-19. He mentioned that the coronavirus pandemic can be the source of cases that produce psychological pain. These cases include the loss of a loved one or of a job, being isolated and the possibility that this will lead to family conflicts, feeling uncertain about the future, or discrimination experienced by certain social groups. Many organisations and experts agree with the seriousness of the mental consequences and aim to give advice on how to maintain our psychological prosperity. The W.H.O., for example, put together a comprehensive programme which includes the necessary steps to avoid anxiety and to preserve a peaceful relationship with each other.

While there is an extensive literature on how the mental health of the middle-class population should be maintained, there are fewer studies on how to help people of the lower-income bracket or who are “caught up in conflict” and are forced to leave their homes, such as refugees. They are affected by the pandemic greatly and their situation would require further attention. Many refugee camps are frequently criticised for treating their residents inhumanely, which has been heightened during the present situation, as they live in overcrowded conditions often lacking the adequate resources to carry a relatively peaceful life. Their mental health is ignored by receiving countries, even though their situation is generally more severe even in everyday conditions. Refugees are also isolated from their customs and people they know, their family dynamics are difficult as they have to worry about food and other resources, and their movements are highly restricted.

People displaced from their homes do not necessarily have to stay in a refugee camp to feel the absence of their everyday life that comforts them away from home. The W.H.O. reports that thousands of Muslims could not celebrate Ramadan this year. The policies of social distancing and isolation in most countries prevented them from visiting mosques and social celebrations during the Holy Month which could have caused anxiety for followers.

Another example is from Latin America. The indigenous population is often discriminated and does not receive suitable support from their governments, even though their livelihood activities and ability to sustain themselves are disrupted by the pandemic. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, these groups include the Warao, Eñapa, Kariña, Pemon and Ye’kwana communities. Their historical roots can be found in various neighbouring countries, but as the national lockdowns emerged, they are isolated from their families living in another country. The threat of physical harm from the malnutrition and the armed groups combined with the separateness from their relatives can cause increased mental problems.

Overall, refugees and people displaced from home often experience similar conditions in which richer countries and classes are right now during the coronavirus pandemic, yet their issues and mental health are generally not heard. The mental health crisis, if ignored, can lead to serious consequences for peace and security.