Hey, how have you been? I hope you’re well and steady.
But for those who have gone through the struggles of getting infected with Covid-19, my prayers and hugs go out to you.
The year-long and still going strong pandemic has taken its toll on everyone’s mental health — whether or not one has been stricken by the virus.
Last week, a Reuters report quoting scientists said that one in three Covid-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients “were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems.
The findings, published in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, analyzed health records of 236,379 Covid-19 patients who were mostly based in the US. The study showed “34 percent had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric illnesses within six months.”
Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was still not clear “how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.”
The research also indicated that post-Covid cases such as “stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer” though it was still significant especially in those who had severe Covid-19.
According to Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University who
co-led the research: “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial.”
Last year, the same group of researchers discovered that 20 percent of Covid-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.
Independent experts are alarmed by the profound impact among survivors of Covid-19. The study showed the occurrence of anxiety (17 percent) and mood disorders (14 percent) were the most prevalent and didn’t really matter whether a survivor’s infection was mild or severe.
Lea Milligan, chief executive of the MQ Mental Health research charity, said, “The impact Covid-19 is having on individuals’ mental health can be severe. This is contributing to the already rising levels of mental illness and requires further, urgent research.”
Every Covid-19 survivor has a unique experience — some had it bad and needed to be intubated in a hospital, others had it mild and were lucky to heal through home care. Nonetheless, the anxiety and fear exist; and the way one reckons with life after surviving the disease is also different among individuals.
As the study shows, mental health — getting back on life’s track, the dailiness of living, interacting with more people than the usual number when one was in isolation for weeks — is a crucial part of one’s recovery.
Among loved ones and family members who know of a Covid-19 survivor, it’s important to treat the victim with kindness. Truth be told, many patients still prefer to suffer quietly (while going through the necessary medical measures) and not be out or publicly open about their illness because of the stigma and yet-to-be-discovered facts about its existence and persistence.
A comment such as, “Yan sina Mrs. M, nagka-Covid pamilya nila. Iwasan natin sila,” is almost tantamount to adding an “X” in blood-red paint on the said residents’ front gate.
Some survivors talk about being given glaring looks and nasty remarks from neighbors, relatives or just about anyone who are aware of what they’ve gone through. Survivors also talked about getting insensitive remarks as if they haven’t gone through much already: “Nagka-Covid ka? Anong feeling (You had Covid? How does it feel)?”
As it takes an entire nation to heal from this virus, what is needed by Covid-19 survivors as well are acts of kindness and sincerity.
Stay safe and steady. Be kind to each other — it’s a good way to ease the darkness that the prolonged pandemic has been giving the world. Keep politics and hatred out — no man is an island. A good heart and strong mind for one’s self and others can slay the toughness of any day.
Given that mental wellness is part of one’s road to recovery, here are some simple but helpful things that people can do for Covid-19 survivors.
1. Reach out and give kind, encouraging words. Despite the “negative” results of a Covid test, know that survivors may still feel some level of mental and physical fatigue due to the virus residue.
Unless the person wants to tell his/her story, avoid asking questions that will entail a complete medical history of one’s illness. This talk can be exhausting especially if the survivor is not ready to talk about it.
A simple “How are you? I’m glad you’re recovering” is a kind start. Then just listen to what the survivor wants to share. This is a form of talk therapy, which a survivor might need after the intense experience.
2. Be sensitive about triggers. Make sure topics of conversations are not sensitive points for the survivor. Those who are grieving, most especially, because they’ve lost their loved ones to Covid-19, may not want to hear a conversation on the latest people who died due to the virus — more so, how these people struggled before they lost the battle. Or, even hear news about how the numbers of infected people are spiking.
3. Offer help. A survivors’ “normal life” has been disrupted. Households may have been left disorganized as the person was in the hospital or isolating at home. Offering any form of help would be much appreciated by the survivor. Even having meals delivered at home for the person and his/her family helps especially if the survivor is a parent with young kids and may not get back yet to household chores.
Expect some sense of disorientation among most survivors because of their recovering physical condition and the mere fact that they were isolated for two or more weeks while making the effort to get well. In this case, friends and family may offer buying their meds (maintenance or supplements), helping process health card documents or setting online doctors’ appointments, for instance. This will allow the survivor to have more self-care as they make the effort towards feeling better.
4. Offer love and prayers. As for most people, it’s not really the material things that count for the Covid-19 survivor but the sincerity of those who are reaching out to them. Basic things like sending virtual hugs and saying that you’re including them in your prayers are priceless gestures that would add some cheer to the recovering patient. Genuine care and affection have the power to boost a survivor’s self-esteem and, as shown in many studies, immune system as well.