Pandemics, quarantine and mental health

Danna Mheliza Mae D. Budaño ||

Uneasiness, anxiety, dread, tension, confusion, and hopelessness have been our loyal companions ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started ravaging the country last year. 

We were optimistic that everything would go back to normal after a few months; that we would be back with our normal lives as if nothing happened. That sentiment couldn’t have been any farther from our reality.

A year has passed since the government implemented quarantine, yet, whatever we do, we can’t seem to reach the end of this dark tunnel.

We are losing hope every day. 

Each day, thousands of newly recorded cases and hundreds of recorded deaths are announced. This serves as a grim reminder that whilst we are at the safety of our homes, in some other place, people are fighting a desperate match against death.

As dire as the COVID-19 pandemic is, unfortunately, it isn’t our country’s only enemy. It had brought along a string of other problems.

Problems in the economy, in the government, in the environment, and in education have been rampant in the past year, and some of these stemmed from the year-long quarantine the government had implemented. Yet, even less talked about is the population’s worsening mental health crisis amidst the quarantine and pandemic. 

Mental health has always been a topic of concern even before the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantines started. But with the endless problems the country and the rest of the world have been facing, we are starting to forget how important mental health actually is. 

Quarantine certainly isn’t the best experience, and people have associated negative emotions with it such as boredom, loneliness, and uncertainty. There had also been extreme cases where quarantine had led people to commit suicide. 

Prolonged quarantine can result in psychological damage due to extended exposure to stressors. A study conducted in 14 different countries had shown that people who showed symptoms of depression tripled after restrictions were implemented. 14.2% of the 14,975 respondents displayed symptoms of depression before quarantine started. After quarantine regulations were implemented, 45.2% of the respondents showed symptoms of depression. 

Despite the facts above, we couldn’t simply halt quarantine. A spike in cases would trigger more unrest and anxiety to the population as compared to a prolonged quarantine. 

What exactly are we supposed to do? What should our country’s leaders do? 

Authorities should make concrete plans on how to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine is a measure against the pandemic, we can only end quarantine as long as cases have decreased significantly, along with chances of future infections. 

Communication with the population is necessary. The government should clearly state its plans and give updates on the situation. They should also make sure that while quarantine is implemented, the population has their basic needs fulfilled, especially the people who have lost their jobs due to quarantine. 

On the other hand, as citizens, we should follow health protocols implemented by the government. Wear masks, sanitize ourselves properly, and take care of our physical well-being by taking supplements. 

With the worsening mental well-being of the population during quarantine, we should start taking serious action against the pandemic itself.

By taking all the necessary steps to end the pandemic, someday, we might be able to get ourselves out of quarantine and take a fresh breath of air outside without fear.

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