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Coronavirus, Lockdowns and Mental Health

A male and female side silhouette positioned back to back, overlaid with various sized words related to the topic of mental health and depression.

By Kay Kaseke

As the world continues to suffer from the turmoils of COVID-19 it is essential to look at other health implications surrounding the global phenomenon.

Mental health, a condition which is a cause for concern to many families around the globe is likely to find a permanent place in the wake of COVID-19. The malady has been neglected since time immemorial and its effects cannot be undermined.

Misconceptions, untold stories, antagonizing theories, misleading lies surrounding it has been virtually a drawing board implored to shape views and perceptions in the African context.

The health condition in its ugly virtual state causes one to become deviant in character and sometimes is prone to lose ethical code of conduct.

Imagine if the entire globe is to have a ploriffaration of these mental scenarios, concurrent with COVID-19, at a time when social distancing is a norm of the day.

The escalation of COVID-19 death toll will certainly invite future lockdowns, subsequently hauling the entire Globe to an indefinite stand still.

At pleasant, lockdown is the game of the day initiated as a strategic measure to contain the pandemic.

A deep introspect into the subject matter , unravels new form of adverse effects. The lockdowns across the entire globe will inevitably culminate in mental health catastrophes.

This does not spare anyone in spite of gender, creed, skin- colour, religion, race or one’s economic background.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that at least 10% of the world’s population suffers from common mental health disorder while in Zimbabwe 1 in every 4 have suffered from the disease in a population of over 13m people.

WHO defines mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution the community.”

In public mental health terms the main psychological impact to date is elevated rates of stress or anxiety, with the new measures of quarantine the majority of the populace not just in Zimbabwe but in the world over were not prepared for the lockdown both mentally and financially which could in most instances could lead to mental illness such as depression, stress and anxiety especially as bills need to be paid.

Dr Nombulelo Crocco a clinical psychologist said the lock down does take its toll ones mental well-being

“effects of the lockdown are a depressed mood, stress, anxiety, fear of the unknown, confusion due to insufficient or contradictory COVID-19, anger, frustration over lack or reduced income due to lockdown and a sense of helplessness one cannot control the current situation.” She said.

The Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Managagwa ordered a lockdown to curb the increase of new infections of corona virus with some doctors calling on the populace to cooperate and understand our leader as there are no easy choice as one death is too many.

The German Finance Minister Thomas Schaefer in the state premier Volker Bouffier said he committed suicide apparently after becoming “deeply worried” over how to cope with the economic fallout from coronavirus.

Dr Crocco said that avoid mental breakdowns during the lockdown individuals have to keep occupied with what interests them and also bond with family.

“This is no time to pick fights with family members but to bond and know each other better.” she encouraged

She urged the public to seek facts from reliable sources, follow instructions, keep oneself occupied, avoid worrying over things one cannot change and choosing to see positives over negatives.

As the lockdown has an impact on our everyday activities WHO states that there is likely to be an increase in levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol abuse and suicidal behaviour are also expected to rise and these are a cause or result of mental illness.

These effects are more likely in particular to those that were disenfranchised before the crisis and the lockdown started such as vendors whom live hand to mouth and economists have suggested are to be the most affected financially during the lockdown causing a lot of stress and likely depression.

Even though social media has become a companion that can help with mental issues by filling the void created by practising social distancing one has to be careful of what they consume.

Fear-mongering and talking about conspiracy theories can potentially worsen psychotic episodes among individuals already suffering from schizophrenia as becoming entrenched in the pandemonium can also worsen any other type of mental disorder.

Comscore a digital content audience measurement website recently released a research showing that the number of minutes spent by readers on news sites has increased by 46%in the same period last year.

However the public has complained of the high data charges for communication, that during the lock-down service providers such as Econet and Netone would reduce the data prices but that has not been the case.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to salvage humankind with lockdowns world wide taking a toll, the myriad concerns will be centred on people’s willingness to adapt towards the adversity.

Tendai Guvamombe