The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID19) pandemic hit people, communities and countries so rapidly and unexpectedly as if our world was under attack from an alien invasion force, disintegrating every aspect of our life as we know it. From how we live and interact as human beings to how our businesses, communities and countries operate.  

The Covid-19 cases have surpassed over 2 million globally. While the economic damage and viral spread of the pandemic may be stabilising, a mental health pandemic of the disease is on its way and must be taken seriously with over 2.6 billion people living under lockdown across the globe.

From my clinical observations and evaluation of recent  research articles, it seems that the COVID19 pandemic has already had and will continue to have a significant long term impact on mental health of people across the globe. 

The impact will be in different shapes and forms. The most common acute presentations are acute stress reaction, anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. The long term effects would be chronic anxiety disorder, depression and post traumatic stress disorder with people requiring enormous support with the management of their mental illness.

It is normal to feel vulnerable and overwhelmed when you get scary updates about the pandemic, especially if you have experienced trauma or mental health problems in the past, or if you have a long-term physical health condition that makes you more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus. 

It is important to acknowledge these feelings and remind each other to look after our physical and mental health. We should try and reassure people we know who may be worried, high risk and check on people who you may know are living alone.

It is also important to minimise watching, reading or listening to news about COVID-19 that may cause people to feel anxious or distressed. People should ideally seek information updates once or twice during the day, and obtain the facts from a reliable source. 

Moreover, rumors, speculations and fake news can add fuel to the anxiety, which is why obtaining good quality information is so important.

It is of extreme importance to find a balance between digesting important updates on COVID-19 while reducing information that can cause us to feel depressed is fundamental.

A few suggestions that can be helpful to mental health when getting the coronavirus updates include:

  • Avoiding rumours and speculations, and looking up reputable sources
  • Seeking trustworthy and reliable information
  • Muting group chats and hiding posts if they are too overwhelming
  • Taking breaks from social media and limiting time spent on news platforms and social media
  • Sharing positive stories that you come across

Humanity has been through numerous similar challenges in the past and we will win our fight against Covid19 as well. During this difficult time it is extremely important to continue looking after your physical and mental health, do not hesitate to ask for help when needed.

If you need any support with regards to your mental health you would be able to access NHS Mental Health hotline and other voluntary services.

Dr Qudrat Ullah is a Consultant Psychiatrist, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, Chair of Advisory Board of Afghan Council of Great Britain and former Chair of Afghan Association of Healthcare Professionals.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Afghan Council of Great Britain.