COVID-19 to have 'profound' mental health fallout
Healthcare employees of the Georges Pompidou European hospital respond to taxi drivers who gathered in front of the hospital to applaud them in Paris, on April 15, 2020, on the thirtieth day of a lockdown in France aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus.
AFP/Martin Bureau

COVID-19 to have 'profound' mental health fallout

Patrick Galey (Agence France-Presse) - April 16, 2020 - 8:52am

PARIS, France — The coronavirus pandemic is likely to have a "profound and pervasive impact" on global mental health as billions struggle to cope with isolated living and anxiety spikes, experts warned Thursday. 

In a paper published in Lancet Psychiatry, a panel of 24 specialists call for more funding for research into the impacts COVID-19 may have on society's mental well-being. 

Two accompanying surveys of the British public showed that most people questioned had experienced heightened anxiety and fear of becoming mentally unwell since the pandemic struck. 

"We are all dealing with unprecedented uncertainty and major changes to the way we live our lives as a result of coronavirus," said lead author Emily Holmes from Uppsala University's department of psychology. 

"Our surveys show these changes are already having a considerable impact on our mental health."

The authors called for real-time monitoring of anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide across the world, as well as the creation of treatment programmes that can be accessed remotely. 

"This needs to be on a bigger scale than we have ever seen previously, and must be coordinated, targeted and comprehensive," said Matthew Hotopf, from King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience. 

"Above all, we want to stress that all new interventions must be informed by top notch research to make sure they work."

Studies into the mental health impact of previous disease outbreaks, such as the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s, showed a clear increase in suicide rates and the number of health care workers who experience emotional distress.

But the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic is unprecedented, with billions of people forced to isolate at home and no end in sight even after social distancing measures are eased. 

'Perfect mental health storm'

The surveys, conducted among more than 3,000 people in Britain, showed a wide range of fears arising from the pandemic. 

These include increased anxiety, the effects of social isolation, the fear of becoming mentally unwell and accessing care if needed. 

The experts cautioned that these symptoms were likely to continue well in to the future, even after the current round of lockdowns are eased.

The authors called for government funding to establish specialised working groups comprised of people with experience of mental health impacts to ensure research and treatment are prioritised.

"Increased social isolation, loneliness, health anxiety, stress and an economic downturn are a perfect storm to harm people's mental health and wellbeing," said Rory O'Connor, professor of Health Psychology at the University of Glasgow.

He said that a lack of intervention risked an explosion of mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, as well as a rise in alcohol and drug addiction.

"The scale of this problem is too serious to ignore, both in terms of every human life that may be affected, and in terms of the wider impact on society."

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 26, 2021 - 8:18am

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

July 26, 2021 - 8:18am

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday said the country had "largely" passed the peak of its third coronavirus wave and eased restrictions, including a ban on alcohol sales.

The African country worst hit by the virus went back into a partial lockdown last month to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases widely attributed to the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Ramaphosa on Sunday said the average number of daily new infections had stood around 12,000 over the past week, a 20% drop from the previous week. 

"The latest figures suggest that we have largely passed the peak of the third wave of infections, although there are areas in the country where we still need to be concerned," the president said in an address to the nation.

While new daily cases have declined steadily in the most populous Gauteng province — the third wave's epicenter — infections are still rising in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape provinces, he cautioned.

But Ramaphosa still announced the easing of restrictions on gatherings, in-country travel and alcohol sales with almost immediate effect. — AFP

July 24, 2021 - 12:15pm

The number of COVID-19 cases surpasses 40 million on Saturday in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Since the first coronavirus infections were recorded last year, the number of cases in the region has reached 40,073,507, according to an AFP count based on official data as of 0200 GMT.

The number of deaths has reached 1,353,335.

The rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has fueled a surge in COVID-19 cases around the world this week, with total cases hitting 192,942,266 with 4,143,687 deaths.

July 23, 2021 - 1:59pm

China says a WHO proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed "disrespect" and "arrogance towards science".

Last week, the World Health Organization said a second stage of the international probe should include audits of Chinese labs, amid increasing pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan. 

The proposal outlined by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included "audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019" -- referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan. — AFP

July 23, 2021 - 11:59am

State leaders say that Sydney's fast-growing coronavirus outbreak has become a "national emergency," as Australia's largest city reported another record number of new infections.

Admitting a month-long lockdown had so far failed to stop a Delta-variant outbreak, the state of New South Wales pleaded for Canberra to urgently send more vaccines and resources.

Declaring the outbreak a national emergency could pave the way for more federal government involvement in stemming the crisis. — AFP

July 21, 2021 - 6:29pm

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte confirms that her brother, Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte tested positive for COVID-19.

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