Mental health pandemic - planning for 'recovidery'

Global health policy makers are currently testing the fine line between the harm caused by the physical and potential threat of contagion with the harm caused by policy implementation itself. With a prediction of pandemic mental health, a cardiology ticking time-bomb caused by 'lockdown inactivity' and the current trashing of the economy, the question is; is the policy cure worse than the disease?

Most people accept that there have to be policies than can be implemented immediately to manage a pandemic. However, policy requires a (preferably) willing public, and self-policing process to achieve the required control measures. Apart from (or because of) the odd media story about people going to the beach or there being more than two people at a time in a park, the public spirited response to COVID-19 has been largely exemplary. It is hoped that as a result of this public spirit, the rate at which we can return to some sense of 'normality' will be higher than otherwise. We hope that this has been a useful exercise in civil defence against both naturally mutating viruses and the more synthetic threat of lab escapees, bio-terror or actual bio-warfare. After all, WW1 was chemical and WW2 nuclear.

In many respects we are fortunate for now as COVID-19 has been widely reported as having only mild symptoms in most people. There would seem to be very little need to question the urgent requirement for pandemic containment policies. But are we considering the consequential fall out sufficiently? This pandemic is already causing major paradigm shifts in the way we regard life on Earth. As people, we cannot go more 'against the natural grain' than implement 'social distancing'. Humans are not good at staying away from each other. We need close contact with family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues and even total strangers. Britain might be, but man is not an island.

What is the 'recovidery' policy?

There are no quick answers to this question. In many ways the physical fall out is much easier to see (and therefore treat) than the toll the policy is taking on mental health. The pathological outcome is likely to range from mild anxiety and depression, all the way through to increased suicidal ideation and full on PTSD. There will therefore need to be a further shift in public spirit towards helping each other overcome this next challenging phase. The good news, as Dr Robert Lefever says is that the action of one person helping another is therapeutic its own right.

Various research centres are currently undertaking surveys to assess the fall out. Professor Cathy Creswell, Departments of Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford, said, ‘Research has provided valuable information about how parents and carers can support their children’s mental health in general. 

See also top tips for keeping sane in pandemic.

The therapeutic result of one person helping another

Feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest in life, combined with a sense of reduced emotional well-being Full medical glossary
The raising of the body temperature above norma, which may be accompanied by symptoms such as shivering, headache and sweating. Full medical glossary
The basic unit of genetic material carried on chromosomes. Full medical glossary
An outbreak of infection that affects numerous people in different countries. Full medical glossary
Post-traumatic stress disorder. Full medical glossary
A microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary
Microbes that are only able to multiply within living cells. Full medical glossary