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The impact of COVID-19 on mental health

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The impact of COVID-19 on mental health


What impact has COVID had on people?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of cases of depression and anxiety around the world have seen a drastic increase since the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, treatment for mental health issues is, more than ever, a major public health challenge.

During the pandemic, there was a significant increase in stress levels among the population. In the various studies analysed by WHO, health restrictions, social isolation, fear of contracting the virus, mourning following the death of loved ones and financial difficulties were all raised as stress factors leading to anxiety and depression. In some socio-professional categories which were in particularly high demand during the pandemic, burnout was also cited as a common risk factor.

Anxiety is an unpleasant emotion which combines physical symptoms (accelerated heart rate, difficulty breathing, perspiration, shaking, dizziness, sweaty hands, clenching, muscle tension, etc.) and anxious thoughts (worries, brooding, obsessions, doubts, fears, etc.). A state of anxiety which persists over time can gradually lead to a depressive disorder.

Young people are the most affected

The pandemic had a particularly strong impact on the mental health of the youngest citizens. Major depressive episodes have thus become a common problem among teenagers. They have resulted in a wide range of symptoms as well as psychoemotional disorders and difficulties with social adaptation. In this age group, a major depressive episode often results in problems at school, a weakening of social relationships, risky behaviours, conflict with parents or other authority figures and even substance abuse. In this context, school healthcare staff play a key role in screening for depression.

What should you do in the event of depression?

The main symptoms of depression are: difficulty getting up and going to work or school; changes in sleep patterns, including insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much); loss of appetite; change in weight; constant feelings of fatigue; loss of interest in activities the person usually enjoys; social isolation, including going out less and not wanting to see anyone; constant feeling of sadness; loss of self-confidence or difficulty concentrating. All of these symptoms can vary enormously from person to person.

If depression is suspected, it is recommended that you consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist for support. Treatments for depressive disorders traditionally include antidepressant medication combined with cognitive behavioural psychotherapy. Psychological education promotes recovery from depression, for example by encouraging a healthy lifestyle, improving social skills or guiding patients towards social support.

The importance of spotting the early symptoms of depression

It is important to overcome some of the reticence that is still too common when it comes to talking about mental health, since early treatment is key to long-term wellbeing, particularly for teenagers. These measures can prevent premature death, since unidentified and untreated depression can, unfortunately, lead to suicide, which remains the leading cause of death among under 25s.