4 Groups of People Hardest Hit by COVID-19 Mental Health Impact

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought adverse impacts on mental health of the general population. Four groups of people are particularly hard hit – health care workers, people in quarantine, people who are infected, and family members of people who are in quarantine or infected.

Mental Health Issues of Health Care Workers (HCW)

Doctors, nursing staff, and other professionals have risen to the challenge posed by the pandemic. This is making them very apprehensive and vulnerable to the negative psychological consequences.

Ethics versus duty

  • Guilt of improper/partial examination of patients
  • Guilt of lack of proper contact with patients
  • Reporting their own symptoms

Dealing with death

  • Death of patients
  • Death of colleagues
  • Death of family members

Stigma

  • Self-stigma: why am I in this profession
  • Anticipated Stigma: May will adversely react if they know that I am an HCW
  • Public stigma: Others may fear that the HCW will spread infection. Being ostracized by neighbors. Eviction notices from landlords/housing societies

Mental Health Issues of People in Quarantine

To some people, the words quarantine and social distancing are being considered as some kind of torture, rather than preventive measures.

People in quarantine or people who practice social distancing are both vulnerable to adverse mental health outcomes. The various issues can range from mild anxiety to various other psychological reactions, development of new psychiatric syndrome, or worsening of pre-existing psychiatric disorder.

  • Fear, anger, panic, anxiety, depression, frustration, Insomnia
  • Isolation, disconnectedness, loneliness
  • Uncertainty about the outcome
  • Fear of unknown
  • Fear of death
  • Dealing with not being tested, but have to remain confined
  • New-onset psychiatric morbidity
  • Apprehension about developing the infection
  • Pathological anxiety in response to normal physical changes
  • Hypochondriasis-linking any small thing to developing of infection
  • Withdrawal from substances
  • Accepting food, which may not be of their own choice
  • Not accepting the social confinement
  • Need to use the substances

Mental Health Issues of People Infected with COVID-19

People diagnosed with COVID-19, naturally are expected to be anxious and concerned.

Issues close to diagnosis

  • Who infected me? – Anger
  • Did I infect others? – Guilt
  • Who all have got infected with me? – what is happening to my parents, children, spouse, colleagues, etc
  • Will I survive? – Fear
  • Will I get the ventilator – AnticipatoryAnxiety
  • Acute Stress Reaction
  • Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia

Issues during the stay in the COVID-19 ward/hospital

  • Loneliness, social disconnect, socialisolation
  • Depression, Anxiety, Disturbed sleep, Agoraphobia
  • Hypochondriasis, Somatosensory Amplification
  • Uncertainty about future
  • Discrimination by the healthcare workers
  • The feeling of not being cared for

Issues Among Family Members of People Quarantined or Diagnosed

Family members of patients diagnosed with COVID can be expected to be worried and concerned. For instance, at a time when patients most need help and support from family members, yet for safety concerns, family members are expected to stay away, from the patients, wards, and even the hospitals. This can lead to a lot of uncertainty and distress among caregivers.

  • Uncertainty about the outcome
  • Self-quarantine
  • Anticipatory grief
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stigma
  • Isolation
  • Not able to attend the funeral or carry out the rites as per the religious norms

Source consulted:

Sandeep Grover, et al. 2020. “Why all COVID-19 hospitals should have mental health professionals: The importance of mental health in a worldwide crisis!” In Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 51 (2020) 102147.

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