By Nico Strydom
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on people’s mental health and experts expect cases of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder to keep on rising.
“People are scared of getting sick because they will infect people around them. People have lost family and friends, are still physically separated and isolated from loved ones and support groups and in many cases have lost their jobs. All these factors create the perfect storm for tension, depression and anxiety,” says Lee Callakoppen, executive head of Bonitas Medicl Fund.
According to statistics about 7 million South Africans are facing different forms of anxiety disorder. According to Callakoppen symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder are depression, anxiety, insomnia, and symptoms of putative stress and adaptation disorder have been identified as mental health issues as a result of Covid19.
“Post-traumatic stress disorder is a common mental disorder caused by psychological trauma. It has a high incidence among people exposed to trauma as a result of the loss of loved ones, hospitalisation due to a positive Covid-19 test, social isolation, stigmatisation and the realistic or unrealistic fear of infection.”
Covid-19 affects everybody and makes people reflect on various aspects of their lives. This makes us realise how vulnerable we are. It is possible that the national lockdown resulted in many people being hesitant to seek help, either for fear of picking up the virus or because they were scared that they could be violating the relevant regulations.
According to Callakoppen it is important to be on the lookout for signs and symptoms. These include, inter alia, feeling sad, depressed and sombre regularly, feeling overwhelmed by life problems, changes in eating patterns, concentration problems, loss of energy and loss of motivation, constant tension and anxiety, sleeping problems, loss of interest, thoughts about death and suicide, and drug or alcohol abuse.
“If you notice or experience any sign of mental illness, it is important to get help as soon as possible. Over the past few years there have been warning signs that mental illness was becoming more common.”
Callakoppen points out that mental illness is not an imaginary disease, but a disease that affects the biochemistry of the brain. “As a result of the devastating impact that it has on individuals and their next of kin, it is of critical importance that there should be support.
“There is no doubt that Covid-19 mental-health issues have taken a turn for the worst worldwide and knowing that mental and physical health go together, it is therefore important to look at integrated care to prevent this from becoming the next pandemic.”