Long periods of isolation, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, financial insecurity and the daily stress are contributing to the parallel mental health pandemic. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Long periods of isolation, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, financial insecurity and the daily stress are contributing to the parallel mental health pandemic. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Effects of pandemic on emotional well-being likely to linger longer than Covid-19

By Shadrick Mazaza Time of article published Jul 6, 2020

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The coronavirus that has caused the Covid-19 global health and economic devastation is said to lead to a more devastating secondary pandemic: that of mental and emotional ill-health.

This mental health crisis is going to linger much longer than the virus itself. To understand the significance of this, we need to look at the state of the world the coronavirus found when it first arrived in East Asia.

Mental health had been declining globally for some years as a side effect of the increasing complexity, uncertainty and rapid change ushered in by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and globalisation.

Manifestations of this revolution - structural changes, systems under stress, underdevelopment and failing institutions - were highlighted by the Global Risks Report in 2019 as giving rise to a tremendous human cost in terms of increasing anxiety, anger and loneliness in the world.

The report went on to say: “In many ways, the mental health issues we face are similar to the physical health and safety challenges of the 19th century as industrialisation changed the nature of work.

“In the 21st century, mental health and safety rules could play a similar role in our increasingly knowledge-based economy.”

Thus Covid-19 found a global decline in psychological and emotional well-being in a world highly polarised and a breeding ground for nationalism, popularism, tribalism and xenophobia.

We were in the middle of the crisis and the virus simply accelerated the existing mental health crisis.

It is now estimated that worldwide, over 264 million people are struggling with depression and anxiety disorders.

Long periods of isolation, loss of loved ones, loss of jobs, financial insecurity and the daily stress of day-to-day living are contributing to the parallel mental health pandemic.

A global mental health initiative is going to be imperative to deal with this crisis.

One such initiative was the “Global Never Alone Mental Health Summit”, an online event that took place last month.

I spoke at this event with Deepak Chopra, Arianna Huffington, Mariel Hemingway, Peter Coyote, Don Miguel Ruiz, Wim Hof, Dan Siegel, Rhonda Magee, and many others.

Diverse approaches to alleviate stress and anxiety associated with the virus were provided.

A call to action for a global response to the crisis was made as well as a “rebranding” of mental health - emphasising mental well- being and moving away from mental illness focus.

There are many psychological approaches and therapies for management of stress and anxiety.

As a physician with a focus on the mind, brain, body and behaviour connection, I have found that the most effective approach to the crisis is the development and maintenance of mental and emotional resilience.

This means going to the root of the problem, and that is understanding the nature of human feeling and where human experience comes from.

Knowledge and understanding of how the human mind works in creating an experience is a culmination of the advances in neuroscience, psychology and philosophy.

I share this with my patients and students in managerial leadership.

* Professor Shadrick Mazaza is a physician, philosopher, author and business school academic, and founder of The African Consciousness Institute.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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