[This document is a part of a series of discussion notes addressing fundamental questions about the COVID-19 crisis and response strategies. These documents are based on the best scientific information available and may be updated as new information comes to light.]
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people’s health but also their personal goals, family dynamics, occupational roles and economic stability. In this sense, it constitutes an unprecedented global crisis that has impacted mental health through multiple mechanisms simultaneously, which calls for urgent action for intervention, prevention, and preparedness.
Written by Ximena Goldberg, Oriana Ramírez, Matilda van den Bosch, Liudmila Liutsko and Berta Briones (ISGlobal), the document aims to review the different mechanisms through which mental health has been affected during the COVID-19 pandemic taking into consideration social determinants such as economic context.
Abrupt changes in daily habits, fear of contagion, disconnection from nature and modifications of family roles (because of new teleworking procedures, forced homeschooling, or even unemployment) sometimes resulted in high levels of stress over weeks or even months that potentially led to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Importantly, there were also significant increases in the frequency and severity of domestic violence during the pandemic lockdowns.
The document also addresses the neurobiological close link between mental health conditions and COVID-19. About 30-60% of COVID-19 patients suffer manifestations of the central and peripheral nervous system. Moreover, having schizophrenia is the second risk factor (after age) of mortality due to COVID-19.
These mental health problems directly related to the infection will decrease as the control of the spread advances. However, mental health conditions that are associated with trauma and socioeconomic impact of the pandemic will increase even after population immunity is achieved.
The five authors of the document recommend some measures that could be taken and promoted immediately, and that focus on people that are most at risk of mental health conditions: children, adolescents and young people, women, older adults, people with pre-existing health conditions, migrants and refugees, and frontline and essential workers.