Experts warned on Thursday that as billions of people struggle to deal with isolated lives and peaks of anxiety, a coronavirus pandemic may have a “deep and widespread impact” on global mental health.
In a paper published in The Lancet Psychiatry, a group of 24 experts called for more funding to study the impact of COVID-19 on social and psychological health.
Two accompanying surveys of the British public have shown that since the pandemic, most respondents have felt anxious and frightened and mentally unwell.
Emily Holmes, lead author of the Department of Psychology at Uppsala University, said: “Because of the coronavirus, we are all dealing with unprecedented uncertainties and major changes in lifestyle.”
“Our survey shows that these changes have had a considerable impact on our mental health.”
The author calls for real-time monitoring of anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide worldwide, and the creation of remotely accessible treatment procedures.
Matthew Hotopf of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King ’s College London said: “This needs to be greater than we have seen before and must be coordinated, targeted and comprehensive.”
“First of all, we want to emphasize that all new interventions must use first-class research as a reference to ensure their effectiveness.”
Studies of the impact of previous disease outbreaks on mental health (such as the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s) have shown that the suicide rate and the number of health care workers suffering from emotional distress have increased significantly.
However, the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic was unprecedented. Billions of people were forced to stay in isolation at home, and even after the social alienation measures were alleviated, they could not see the end.