A cross-sectional study conducted on 1,427 Bangladeshi adults through an online survey found that 59.7 percent, 33.7 percent and 57.9 percent are affected by stress, anxiety and depression respectively
According to worldometer, so far 213 countries and territories around the world have reported a total of 13,039,853 confirmed cases of the coronavirus that originated from Wuhan, China.
Besides at least 571,659 people around the world have also died.But along with the surge in the number of cases and prevailing lockdowns, there is another surge that is going completely unnoticed - the increase in mental health deterioration among the people.
Bangladesh stands17th among the worst-hit coronavirus countries, counting 183,795 positive cases and 2352 mortalities as of July 13.
Along with the economic, social and infrastructural loss affecting major sectors of Bangladesh due to the pandemic, an increase in mental disintegration in the ongoing pandemic and the post-pandemic situation is something that we have to watch out for.
Although the coronavirus has affected a portion of the population physically, its consequences have undoubtedly affected the majority of the public psychologically.
However, there has been no concern to comprehend or any preventive measures taken by health authorities regarding the psychological shocks that the people are facing due to the pandemic and its impact.
Throughout the world, there has been a considerable apprehension regarding the traumatising psychological effect of the pandemic, which has brought on dire psychological consequences such as elevated stress and anxiety.
The World Health Organisation said, "levels of loneliness, depression, harmful alcohol and drug use, and self-harm or suicidal behaviour" are expected to move higher due to a disruption in normal life activity amid the pandemic.
The situation can turn worse by the death of a loved one, job uncertainty and financial complications.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has issued a warning of a "psychological tsunami". Also, the sudden alteration of the environment and the monotonous routine in the lockdown situation can contribute highly to such mental deterioration.
In the UK, serious psychological problems are arising even among those who have no previous history of any mental illness, said the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Beth McGinty, associate professor of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed nearly 1,500 American adults and revealed that the numbers of Americans suffering from mental health problems like anxiety and depression have gone up by more than three times during the pandemic.
The circumstances in Bangladesh is not different. A cross-sectional study conducted on 1,427 adults through an online survey found that 59.7, 33.7 and 57.9 percent of adults are affected by stress, anxiety and depression respectively, due to the pandemic.
Perceptions that the pandemic has disrupted life events, adversely affected jobs, education and economy, prediction of a worse situation and uncertainty of the health care system capacities were significantly associated with poor mental health outcomes, the study said.
The psychological effects of the pandemic are not only restricted among the adults but also go on to impact children.
A survey on children's emotional well-being by Save The Children found that children are struggling with feelings of anxiety and fear related to missing out on school activities, missing their friends and falling behind in class.
Humans are social beings where socialisation is a distinct feature that we unknowingly practice in our everyday lives. Long periods of isolation and separation carry dire psychological consequences that are multiplied by the traumatic effects of the pandemic.
Such experience of alienation can lead to loneliness and anxiety that has each been linked to increased risk of depression and suicide. Sociologist Emile Durkheim's study of Suicide shows that social integration is an important factor in suicide.
The more a person is integrated into society, the less likely he/she is to commit suicide. Also, the fear of contracting coronavirus and coping with lifestyle changes has ignited challenges for most of us. The challenges have become more extreme for patients affected by the virus, healthcare workers and people with economic uncertainty.
However, the psychological consequences of the pandemic are not surprising at all. Periods of major societal stress, turmoil and uncertainty have always carried with it a psychological byproduct such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance addiction.
While Bangladesh struggles to flatten the curve with minimum resources and inadequate experience of a pandemic, a collective epidemic of psychological disintegration looming around the corner is something that is not unexpected.
Many incidents of suicides due to the pandemic have already been reported. The majority of the cases are a consequences of job loss, insufficient economic capability and inadequacy of basic resources that have created psychological disintegration among the people, subsequently leading them to commit suicide.
We need to acknowledge the seriousness of the issue and take necessary precautions to identify, track and prevent such incidents.
First and foremost, the need for financial assistance to the destitute must be addressed to ensure that their basic amenities are met.
The decision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to provide the stimulus of Tk.2500 to five million families is certainly a step in the right direction along with ensuring food security through the countrywide distribution of basic resources.
Secondly, inclusive policies regarding suicide prevention must be constructed. Also, a task force of public health experts for combating mental disintegration must be established to deliver necessary services through self-help, counselling and treatments to halt mental health from deteriorating.
Thirdly, NGOs and private institutions should advocate and make people aware of the detrimental psychological effect of the pandemic.
Third-party institutions operating at the national, regional and local level should take a step in educating the general mass about the complications and remedies of dealing with the psychological disintegration that the pandemic might bring.
Mass media should be used for initiating and implementing necessary programs to cope with the ongoing pandemic. The psychological fallouts of the pandemic can be presented visually and spread among the general masses through television and social media platforms. Also, interactive online counselling sessions can be started as a way to reach out to those unable to find assistance.
Finally, and most importantly, there is no other alternative as effective as self-help to prevent mental disintegration. Individual action such as exercise, healthy thoughts and activities, communication with others, proper lifestyle, should be ensured to help mental health from deteriorating.
The pandemic has already hit us hard through major hindrances in daily functioning and loss of life. An epidemic of psychological disintegration is the least event we want right now.
Shankha Saha is a final year student in Sociology at Khulna University.