Is the younger generation at mental health risk due to pandemic?
March 2020 saw Swift increase in the number of Covid-19 cases outside china. This led the WHO to announce that novel coronavirus outbreak could be characterized as pandemic. Lockdown was implemented world-wide and everything was closed from schools, offices to recreational places. Normal lives of people came to halt and they had to isolate themselves and practice social distancing in orders to shield themselves from the risk of getting infected.
Covid-19 has drastically transformed the lives of people all around the world in unparalleled manner. This inevitable life changes which are beyond normal experience brought out the worst and people started experiencing stress, anxiety and hope was shattered. It has impacted mental health of younger generation and they may continue to have increased long term mental health concerns. The nature and extent to which it will influence the individual depends on various factors like current educational status, pre-existing mental concerns & other physical concerns, socio-economic status etc.
It’s over the year now and the world is still dealing with covid-19 and its devastating ramifications. Some has lost loved one’s others their jobs. All of us have been confined at home during lockdown unable to live lives we used to. The Covid-19 crisis has affected some more than others and available research data indicates a perturbing surge in mental health concerns among young adult. They are showing high levels of anxiety and depressive symptoms. A Canadian study showed a millennial those aged 15 to 34 had the highest rate of clinically significant anxiety and are much prone to substance abuse since the pandemic broke out. One study in UK found that one out of five have been experiencing depression and 15 percent anxiety cases significant enough to require clinical attention. Also cross studies across countries they found similar patterns that young adults are more adversely affected in terms of mental health. The support young people were getting from workplace, school, college has been disrupted at high level. Studies also found that financial fears and worries about the future are one of the main triggers for young people’s deteriorating mental health. People are very anxious about career, job related and economic hardship. This has led to weakening of protective factors like daily routine, social life that earlier helped in maintaining good mental health.
Hopelessness is something we should be worried about because that is one trigger for suicide. But one silver lining about the rise of mental health struggles is that are able to talk more about it openly. This is the first time mental health is given a lot of importance and The pandemic can be seen as opportunity to raise awareness about mental health as well as augmented access to mental health care resources.
What can be done to protect young people’s mental health, both now and on a long-term basis.
1) Mental health support : Creating awareness, additional phone & online services, easier access to in person services. Where these services cannot be resumed like school & college, alternatives should be found.
2) Major risk factor for mental health issue is unemployment, hence supporting young individuals in finding and staying in work is of top most priority. Training and giving access to mental health services can help in fostering better mental health in young adults already in work.
3) Attention should be given to the young people who are already having pre-existing mental health conditions, lower income backgrounds, care givers, gender diverse backgrounds
4) Suicide risks factors like chronic health issue both mental & physical, loneliness, financial issues have been magnified due to covid-19. It important to seek help and take suicide prevention measures on priority.
5) Building support against discrimination and stigma by identifying existing stigma within the community and equipping people with accurate information’s with respect to Covid-19 and mental health issues
Also read:The side-effects of Pandemic Anxiety and coping with them
Managing wellbeing during these challenging times
Taking care of yourself and managing your well-being means to take care of your physical health, thoughts, emotions, other stressors such as job and your relationships. Following tips can help you to take care of yourself in these difficult times:
1) Take care of your health by eating healthy meals and integrating exercise to your daily routine
2) Managing Thoughts
- Test your thoughts, what is the likelihood that your thoughts may be true? Sometimes when we are feeling scared, we tend to overestimate the likelihood of a negative event.
- Even at such times ask yourself, a. What is under my control and how I have dealt with similar situation in the past.
- Avoid if-then thinking- A ‘what -now’ thinking helps us be in action and deal with what is required in the present rather than worry about an imagined distressing future.
- Take a breather: Working in an environment with limited resources and demands, experiencing stress and anxiety is a natural response. Take a brief moment to identify what you are feeling and what we are doing.
3) Managing your relationships:
- Share the load: It can be challenging to handle demands at work as well as fulfil demands from personal life. Negotiate with your family to share the work that needs to be done. Such as assigning small tasks to your children or other family members.
- Spend time with loved ones: Use this time to spend with your loved ones. Discuss their concerns, highs and lows. This sharing will provide a space to resolve conflicts, share opinions authentically and to build relationships.
- Avoid extreme reactions: The harsh realities of COVID-19 and lockdown can add to the stress and can make us angry. Identifying the sources of anger can help in understanding how to deal with it. ∙ Ask yourself “what is making me angry?”, “When do I usually get upset?” and “How do I react when I am unhappy”. ∙ Identify if you have been looking after yourself, if you’ve been overworking, neglecting your health, sleep etc. which may be contributing to low frustration tolerance.
4) Taking care of your Emotional and Psychological well-being
- Be compassionate and kind to yourself by giving importance to your own needs and give time to yourself
- Acknowledge the distress you are experiencing
- Strength your social network
- Engage in activities unrelated to your work: Seek opportunities to do things that are unrelated to your work. Try to take out time for yourself to do something that brings you joy, comfort. That could mean watching a movie, playing your favourite song as you cook or playing games or learning how to
- Reflect on your day: Allocate time to think about how your day has been, if possible, journal your experiences, notice how you felt throughout the day. Were there some key moments that made you feel specifically upset, etc. Self-reflection helps in being aware of one’s emotions
- Seek professional help to deal with the distress effectively and manage our mental health