As we continue to battle the coronavirus pandemic worldwide, many people are beginning to realise the symptoms of COVID-19 are not just physical. They are far more complicated and deep-rooted. With mass unemployment, mass lockdowns and isolation, social distancing and lifeless streets and shops, society has descended into silent chaos. Some people have not left their houses in over a month, as is the case in the Australian city of Melbourne, which now has one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.

Restrictions are so strict in Melbourne that you cannot even go for a run more than 5km from your home, you must be indoors from 8PM and you must not leave the house if you are not buying groceries or picking up medical supplies.

In New York, things are worse. Many people have not left their houses since March. The once-bustling Manhattan is a ghost town. Most GP’s (General Practitioners) have stopped practising as they are terrified of contracting COVID-19 through their patients. The one time coronavirus support payment of $1200 from the US government is long gone and people have resorted to wartime survival tactics, only buying necessities and leaving the house if absolutely necessary.

A source from Astoria, Queens told Greek City Times that people walking the streets avoid each other by ‘metres,’ and constantly have a fearful expression on their face. People are miserable, losing hope and developing eating disorders. But wait, how does this all fit in with a modern pandemic? The Blackdog Institute has a whole page labelled, Mental Health Ramifications of COVID-19. Here, you can read all about the Mental Side Effects of COVID-19 and they are truly startling.

Among other side effects, the more common consequences of mass disease outbreaks include anxiety and panic attacks, depression, anger, confusion and uncertainty, and extreme financial stress, with job losses and people having to use up their savings as a means to survive.

The mere fact of losing employment can have much more dire consequences than the financial element. Friends are made at work, some people rely on work as a way of escaping a domestic violence situation and a lot of people’s salaries are financially supporting whole families with multiple children, not to mention grandparents.

Working has other benefits too. Keeping the brain occupied is very good for mental health and psychiatrists believe that employment of any kind is crucial to maintaining healthy self-esteem. That’s why it is common for many people who are unemployed long term, be it for whatever reason, to be more susceptible to poor self-image and depression.

Perhaps the worst part of the pandemic is the imposed ‘self-isolation’. This includes being completely isolated in one’s place of residence, only permitted to leave during certain hours of the day and for ‘necessary reasons, having no visitors and only ‘socially distanced’ interactions. Have you ever wondered why the highest rates of suicide and self-harm occur in solitary confinement units? Prisoners are subjected to solitary confinement as the ‘harshest punishment’. In solitary confinement, prisoners experience a range of what can be extremely severe, negative psychological effects. These including forms of deep depression, despondency and hopelessness. I spoke to one woman who told me she had developed bulimia as a result of being ‘locked up’ in her apartment completely alone. She has not seen her family in four months, her friends have developed social anxiety from not being able to properly socialise, she lost both her jobs and is in fear of being evicted from her unit. She also mentioned that she felt like ‘she has been robbed one year of her life.’ This young woman is not alone. Depression and loss of motivation are now rampant in society.

The effects of COVID-19 will be felt for a long time, and this is not just the physical symptoms that one develops having contracted the actual virus. These particular symptoms are much more deadly and will have a lasting impact on everyone, in particular young people. Make sure to check in regularly with family, friends and acquaintances and provide comfort and support where needed, and also do not forget to look after yourself and do not be afraid to seek help.

Where to go if you need help:

1. https://www.beyondblue.org.au

2. https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/resources-support/

3. https://www.sane.org

4. https://www.mindaustralia.org.au