Last month the WHO warned of the ‘Long Term’ COVID Impact on Mental Health.
“Everyone is affected in one way or another,” the WHO said in a statement.
It said “anxieties around virus transmission, the psychological impact of lockdowns and self-isolation” had contributed to a mental health crisis, along with stresses linked to unemployment, financial worries and social alienation.
Even though restrictions are now lifting, some of us are still anxious about hugging/kissing and generally being close to other people for fear of catching the virus, even some of us that have been vaccinated.
Only yesterday I was talking to one of my friends who attended a wedding recently, and he told me that he had turned up at the wedding mask on face, with the expectation that most people would be wearing masks, and of course no other guests were, to his surprise. He went on to explain that he felt awkward and almost pressured to remove his mask because no-one else was wearing one. He added that he felt a little uncomfortable by the fact that most people were hugging and kissing each other especially the bride, and all he could think about, was that this was an absolute nightmare for the potential spread of COVID. These kinds of thoughts would never have crossed our minds prior to COVID.
Alongside this, some people are suffering from what is now being referred to as ‘Long COVID.’
‘Long COVID’ is a condition where people continue to experience symptoms of COVID-19 for longer than usual, after initially contracting COVID.
They can experience these symptoms for weeks, months or possibly years after the initial infection, whether they required hospitalisation or not. Sufferers of long COVID experience fluctuating clusters of both physical and mental symptoms such as loss of taste, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction and fatigue.
Another friend of mine is a fitness instructor who lives on her own, and has long COVID. She has really suffered during the lockdown. Seven months after contracting the virus she is still suffering from vertigo, and devastatingly for her, she has just been given a diagnosis of COPD (Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) caused by the virus. She now has to take inhalers all the time just to go on walks.
Long COVID and mental health
So we are now finding out that for some, recovery from COVID can take a few weeks or even months. And for some people, the physical, mental and emotional symptoms can last for much longer and like any long-term, debilitating disease, it can affect someone’s mental health. When we don’t recover within an expected time frame, it can lead to frustration, confusion and fear.
Coupled with the inability to work, socialise and exercise, these factors can have a significant and devastating impact on mental well-being. Even the physical symptoms – the feeling of not being able to breathe – can be traumatic.
There is not much research on the psychological impact of long COVID. However, one study suggested those who experience long-term symptoms may be more likely to be diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, with an estimated 9.9% of people experiencing mood disorders. However, the researchers suggested this may be the tip of the iceberg.
If you are suffering from long-term COVID and would like further help and support, the NHS offer ‘long COVID sufferers help’ at specialist centres. Click here for the link.
If you would like further support for your mental health and long-term COVID ‘Rethink Mental Illness’ have some great tips and information. Click here for the link.
If you want to share your stories of your own particular experience of mental health, and what has helped you, it would be great to hear from you, or if you would like to contribute to the blog you can reply directly or e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
It would be great to hear from you.
In the meantime enjoy the outdoors and the sunshine and stay safe.
I have been a mental health nurse for 28 years. I work in the Health and Wellbeing Team, and my main role is to facilitate mental health and related subjects. I also facilitate epilepsy and emergency rescue medication training. I provide support and consultations to managers and teams supporting individuals with complex needs and mental health difficulties. This blog is written to encourage people to start talking about mental health, in order to raise awareness and reduce stigma.