Covid-19 and mental health

 

Sir, – Research over past months shows that around one person in every five has significant symptoms of anxiety or depression as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is not a surprise. We are all anxious to some degree. This does not mean that one-fifth of the population is mentally ill. Most people cope by reaching out to family and friends, taking more exercise, changing their lifestyles and doing things they always do in times of difficulty. We are resourceful people, especially when we support each other.

A significant minority require specialist mental health care, but over-medicalising this kind of distress disempowers people who would otherwise cope quite well.

It also de-emphasises social and political solutions to much of this suffering: strengthening communities, protecting employment, supporting business, providing financial assistance to those who need it and implementing public health measures that earn the public’s trust.

Certain groups have higher needs than others: frontline workers, the bereaved and people who contract Covid-19.

There is much that we can do: limit our media intake about the pandemic to 15 minutes twice per day and watch our diet, sleep and exercise habits.

Over past months, most people’s concerns have centred on protecting livelihoods for their families, supporting older adults, ensuring children attend school and trying to connect with other people.

These are altruistic impulses, focused on maintaining the social fabric as our best defence against the virus.

Despite the loss and suffering, pandemics pass. When this one subsides, one of the lasting lessons should be that we are stronger, wiser and kinder people than we imagined. – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN KELLY,

Professor

of Psychiatry,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.