The Psychological Impact of COVID-19: How Did Covid Affect Collective Mental Health?

The Psychological Impact of COVID-19: How Did Covid Affect Collective Mental Health?

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COVID-19 has had some positive and negative effects on the environment, but how has it affected mental health? And, did the virus affect mental health more positively or negatively?COVID-19 has had some positive and negative effects on the environment, but how has it affected mental health? And, did the virus affect mental health more positively or negatively?

Unemployment Crisis

First, let’s talk about unemployment. The National Bureau of Economic Research has declared US unemployment rates as one of the major economic downturns after the Great Depression. Due to strict stay-at-home orders, in response to the Coronavirus disease, according to the Congressional Research Service, the rate of unemployment in the US was 14.8% in April 2020. This unemployment spike resulted in many people being jobless and by extension, not having any way to earn money to satisfy their needs. However, for various socio-political reasons, by the end of December, this rate had declined to 6.7% in December 2020.              

According to the American Psychological Association, unemployment rates triggered widespread psychological distress, which is defined as “a form of worry” or “symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.” In addition, Policy Options magazine stated that the group most affected by the closure of workplaces, caused by the pandemic, was young women.

In Canada, the unemployment rates between February and April 2020 increased by 14.3% for males and 20.4 % for females. However, Canada announced several Unemployment Insurance Benefits to help people who got sick or lost their jobs due to covid.    In Canada, the unemployment rates between February and April 2020 increased by 14.3% for males and 20.4 % for females. However, Canada announced several Unemployment Insurance Benefits to help people who got sick or lost their jobs due to covid.

Effect on Sociality and Education

According to the World Economic Forum, the “COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever.” The pandemic formed major barriers to education and youth. Most educational institutions around the world had to quickly adapt to the new realities in order to reduce the transmission of the virus. To solve this problem, online (or hybrid) teaching was introduced, however, another obstacle came into fruition, this obstacle being an extension of poor politics and social inequality. Some students did not have access to digital devices or had poor internet, while some students did. In fact,

according to the World Economic Forum, nearly 25% of students from unprivileged backgrounds in the US did not have access to a computer for educational purposes. 

social-isolation-and-covid-19

Patricia Perez, an Associate Professor of International Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology shed light on another daunting factor about how COVID has affected the youth population around the world in writing, “young people like to make plans for the future, and it’s difficult to do that when they don’t know how long this new way of life will last.” Patricia Perez, an Associate Professor of International Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology shed light on another daunting factor about how COVID has affected the youth population around the world in writing, “young people like to make plans for the future, and it’s difficult to do that when they don’t know how long this new way of life will last.”                      

This new system of learning has made students lazy and unmotivated. There is no physical activity, no social contact, and therefore, no motivation, which teachers stimulated in classroom environments.            

As mentioned in the Daily Orange newspaper, lack of face-to-face interactions has been linked to anxiety and depression, since many people are only seeing others through digital screens.

Why The Curfews?

In response to the spread of COVID-19, curfews and lockdowns became the favored methods for controlling the spread of the disease. In an article published by Global Dev online blog, the authors ask a tough question: Should curfews and lockdowns cost us our mental health? Mental health might be both the cause and consequence of social and physical isolation.                

Observations were recorded before and after US state-wide lockdowns, and it was noted that the mental health of individuals living in states with strict stay-at-home orders deteriorated more than those living in states without such tough restrictions. As a result, in the U.S., symptoms of depression and anxiety rose to around forty percent during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to eleven percent in early 2019. The Mental Health Foundation tried to offer the suggestion to stay connected, eat healthily, keep active in order to not let the stay-at-home orders affect mental health… Easier said than done?more than those living in states without such tough restrictions. As a result, in the U.S., symptoms of depression and anxiety rose to around forty percent during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to eleven percent in early 2019. The Mental Health Foundation tried to offer the suggestion to stay connected, eat healthily, keep active in order to not let the stay-at-home orders affect mental health… Easier said than done?

Mental State

Although it is true that depression, anxiety, and suicide were present before COVID-19, these mental illnesses have seen a dramatic increase since the start of the pandemic. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) conducted a survey on adults aged eighteen years or more across the United States in 2020, and the results showed that forty-point-nine percent of individuals surveyed displayed at least one mental or behavioral health condition, and around thirty-point-nine reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.

As a result, the CDC published a Help Guide. The guide introduced some coping mechanisms to help reduce the severity of these illnesses. The guide included things such as eating healthy, the use of reminders to keep yourself on track, and practicing some kind of activity such as breathing exercises.               

This deadly virus has affected all of our lives in one or another. Some people have lost jobs and suffered from depression, but we all need not lose hope because we will overcome this battle together. Remember that there are online workshops provided to overcome stress as well as government resources to help people maintain their daily life.

Schizophrenia: Loss of Touch With Reality

Schizophrenia: Loss of Touch With Reality

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Imagine you are walking in a crowded street. Now, stop for a moment and take a look at the world around you, the buildings, the people passing by, the voices you hear. How real are they? Is it possible you are hearing things or seeing things that aren’t actually real? Well, for some people with schizophrenia this is possible.

What is schizophrenia?

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder and probably one of the most complex points that a human brain can reach. It is associated with changes in the structure and functioning patterns of a number of key brain systems, including the prefrontal, medial and temporal lobe regions.

According to Katherine H. Karlsgodt, a psych researcher at UCLA, patients diagnosed with this disorder lose touch with reality and usually don’t even realize the fact that they have a mental illness.

Symptoms of the disorder are mainly categorized into three major areas: positive, negative, and cognitive. Positive symptoms can consist of delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech or behavior, and impaired cognitive ability. Negative symptoms are characterized by a loss or deficit, such as the removal of normal processes in the brain. Lastly, examples of cognitive symptoms include impairments in attention and working memory. However, different patients might experience different symptoms.

What are delusions? They are fixed and false beliefs for which there is no evidence. Similarly, hallucinations are false sensory experiences. People experiencing these symptoms might see images or hear voices that aren’t actually real, which has the potential to unfortunately escalate to committing or attempting suicide.

These images and voices are mostly negative and commanding. The early onset of the disorder, along with its chronic periods, disables most people who suffer from it as well as the people in close contact with them. As the patients experience mood shifts, emotional isolation, and withdrawal from social interaction, it may gradually prevent them from maintaining things like holding a regular job, study or engage in normal daily activities. This disability is ultimately a result of both the negative and cognitive symptoms.

Causes of schizophrenia

According to an article published in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Journal, written by Krishna R. Patel, although the precise cause of schizophrenia is still unknown, several studies have shown that a combination of genetics and environment contributes to the development of the disorder.

The fact that genetics play an important role in the development of schizophrenia was proven through a study that has shown that the risk of illness is approximately 10% for a first-degree relative and 3% for a second-degree relative. This result is further supported by findings that siblings with schizophrenia often experience an onset of the illness around the same age.

Environmental influences could also stimulate the development of schizophrenia, especially in individuals who are already vulnerable to the disorder. Childhood trauma(s), being a visible minority, living in an urban area, and social isolation are examples of environmental stressors linked to this disorder.

An overview of statistics for schizophrenia

According to the WHO (World Health Organization), approximately 1.1% of the world’s population, over the age of 18, suffers from schizophrenia, which means approximately 20 million people worldwide are affected by it.

This mental disorder also commonly starts earlier among men. As mentioned in an article published by the public health department, of the Government of Canada, national data (2016-2017) shows that 1 out of every 100 Canadians aged 10+ were living with diagnosed schizophrenia. 56% were men and 44% were women.
A research study was done by Thomas J Craig, Qing Ye, and Evelyn J Brometin in 2006 shows that approximately 1.7% of all patients with schizophrenia die from suicide. In addition, another research done by Michael R. Phillips, published in The Lancet Journal in 2004, indicates that 10.1% of all people who have committed suicide had schizophrenia, which indicates how common suicidal thoughts and behavior are among people with this disorder.

Schizophrenia genes favored by evolution

Research actually reveals that genes linked to this disorder may also provide developmental advantages and therefore, have been favored by natural selection. 76 DNA sequences linked to schizophrenia were examined by researcher Bernard Crespi of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. As a result, out of the 76 genes studied, 28 showed evidence of being favored by natural selection.

A psychiatric research study conducted by Daniel Nettle and Helen Clegg suggests that people with schizophrenia could be more creative or imaginative than the general population, which increases the possibility of schizophrenia genes helping carriers to solve survival problems or attracting a mate.

Control and Cognitive Redirection Activities

Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that unfortunately targets a large number of people, mostly in their twenties, and about half of the people who suffer from it, commit suicide or struggle with it daily. However, most people with schizophrenia are known to have a very strong imagination and therefore, tend to be more creative as a result. It is very important for the patients and their family members to be optimistic and seek help from a mental health professional in order to control the disorder. Lastly, keep in mind that anything, no matter how awful, can have a bright side as well.

Helicopters on Mars? From Rolling Rovers to Flying Drones

Helicopters on Mars? From Rolling Rovers to Flying Drones

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Image for reference only; this is not NASA’s Perseverance.

 

Since the 1960s, dozens of missions and spacecraft launchings have been carried out by NASA with the intention of exploring the Martian surfaces to discover if the red planet was once habitable, and perhaps if it is a candidate environment for the future of our human species.

A great amount of information is known about the red planet, that we call Mars, due to the successful wheeled rovers that have been used to obtain such information, ranging from the planet’s geology all the way to its atmospheric characteristics.

However, with increasing ambition to further expand discoveries, these slow-moving rovers simply aren’t fast enough. So, what may be the solution to increase rover movement and maximize exploration? A fast-flying rover perhaps! And, believe it or not, NASA has already got that covered.

Meet the ‘SOL’ sisters: Perseverance and Ingenuity

Ingenuity is an autonomous technological experiment that was built by NASA to show the possibility of powered flight on a planet that is not our own, just like the very first Mars rover, Sojourner, which rolled on Mars’ soil in 1997.

This helicopter’s name was not originally given by NASA, but by a student who won the, “Name The Rover” contest in 2020. “Ingenuity is what allows people to accomplish amazing things, and it allows us to expand our horizons to the edges of the Universe,” wrote Vaneeza Rupani, winner of the contest.

The goal of this helicopter is to simply be a successful (experimental) project, which can help future flights such as the Dragonfly―a drone that is planned to launch on Saturn’s moon in the coming years.

Helicopter launches are actually quite difficult. The reason being, Mars’ atmosphere is 99% less dense than Earth’s, making it quite thin, resulting in difficulty to lift any spacecraft off of its surface.

So, how exactly is Ingenuity going to be any different?

Well, Ingenuity was built with a light anatomy, weighing only 4 pounds, with carbon-fiber blades that spin at 2,400 rpm, 6 times faster than the ones on Earth, making Ingenuity’s flight off of the Martian soils possible, which was tested on April 14th, 2021.

The helicopter has also shown success just by surviving the journey to Mars, and no, it did not fly itself there. The small drone was transported in a large six-wheeled rover known as Perseverance, which made its landing on the planet in February 2021. Two months later, the small helicopter was sent free from Perseverance by finally being dropped onto Mars’ surface.

Evidence of success kept on rising as the helicopter, now independent from Perseverance, survived Mars’ below-freezing temperatures, of minus ninety degrees Celsius, thanks to the heating systems that were built in to keep Ingenutiy’s electronics properly functioning in below-freezing temperatures.

The two spacecraft will continue to work hand-in-hand as Ingenuity takes its first flight, capturing 30 pictures a second that is then analyzed to assess its location using a tracking-like software, all of which is then going to be sent back to Earth through Perseverance.

The innovation doesn’t just stop here! Make sure to follow along with Ingenuity’s journey through the red planet’s atmosphere, and the many more discoveries that this helicopter is going to make on NASA’s website, or you can follow NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Facebook and Instagram.

Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

Destigmatizing Medical Conditions

See it through my eyes 

As a child, I had headaches but I didn’t think much of it. When I was in grade five, it was a known thing that I’d get a headache by 3:30 every day. 

When I was a little older, I went to the eye doctor. He was checking my eyes and asked me if I was getting headaches to which I responded the affirmative. He told me that those are migraines based on my sensitivity to the light. He suggested that I stay away from certain foods like nuts, seeds, cheese and wines. 

Although I became more cautious and tried to avoid those food items, I was too young to understand the magnitude of what the doctor had told me.

Navigating in the dark

When I was in tenth or eleventh grade, my migraines increased dramatically. I couldn’t go a week without missing days of school. They started to come more frequently and increasing in length and intensity. 

My pediatrician referred me to see a neurologist who conducted various exams to make sure that there was nothing else serious going on. 

My mother wanted me to hold off on starting a prescription medicine. My uncle is a doctor and my aunt gets migraines too. We sent them the prescriptions to look at. They suggested trying to find another solution as this one can make you become more forgetful. 

Laying low 

By my first year of CEGEP, I was experiencing waves of extended periods of time where I’d be fine and then missing more than three weeks at a time because of migraines. They became so debilitating that I was bed-bound. My migraines lasted more between 8-12 hours. 

Migraines also include experiencing nausea, vertigo and distortion of sight. Usually I’ll experience tell-tale signs that a migraine is setting in. 

It was at this point where I started taking medications. They help decrease the frequency and intensity of my migraines. It also causes side effects like brain fog which can be from the medication or the migraines.

Migraines ≠ headaches 

People don’t understand the magnitude and implications of having chronic migraines. I will often be told to take Tylenol and move on with my life. This is a pretty universal response that those who experience migraines will receive. 

If there was one thing I wish people would know, it would be that migraines and headaches are not the same thing. Migraines can be debilitating. When I get migraines, my eyes and head start hurting. Lights and noise become unbearable. I need to just lay down until it passes. 

Stress Management

Stress Management

How does Stress affect our body?

What is stress? According to the Mental Health foundation, stress is our body’s response to pressure related situations which can lead to physical, mental and emotional changes. When we feel like we are in danger, our bodies go into a “fight” or “flight” response. Stress can cause short term as well as long term health issues or problems. Catecholamines (including adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones) are triggered by the adrenal gland during the short term stress. Similarly, during long term stress cortisol is released and a high increase of cortisol leads to Cushing’s syndrome, which makes you feel tired and weak. Even though stress is unpredictable, there are many ways to control it. These include following a proper healthy diet, exercise and getting enough sleep.

Why follow a healthy diet? 

Following a proper diet is very important for our body. According to Matthew J. Kuchan, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at Abbott, “Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body,” These include cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and high blood pressure. According to the VeryMindwell article, coffee does boost your body immediately but it also increases the cortisol levels in your body. Fish and nuts contain omega 3-fats, which play a role in the regulation of mood.  In an article published by the journal Nutrients, researchers Jiwon Kim and Jihye Kim have found that green tea which contains an amino acid, called theanine, which acts as an anti-stress benefit for people fighting with depression. At the end of the day, it is very important to take a proper healthy diet.

Feel Fresh, Feel Good

 The most important factors in reducing stress is exercise. We already know that exercise is good for weight loss and improving muscle strength but did you know it also helps in the production of endorphins? According to an Exercise and Depression article, their role is to reduce pain and increase positive feelings. The famous philosopher, “Saint Thomad Aquanias”, mentioned that, “All men need leisure”. Exercise is a way to distract ourselves from the daily grind of our lives.  When we are involved in  some type of physical activity, our minds are relaxed and we are able to think freely.

Connection between Stress and Sleep levels

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is mandatory. As per the National Sleep foundation guidelines, an adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Usually if our cortisol level increases during the night, it will disrupt the release of melatonin. This hormone controls the sleep-wake cycle. In an article written by Sleepscore, research shows that lack of sleep can make you more impulsive, and more sensitive to negative stimuli. Sleep deprivation can give rise to stress in a number of ways. It is our job to give our brain some rest so that we can be active and improve our concentration, thinking skills.

Small efforts lead to good results

In order to be able to reduce or overcome stress, we should begin to follow a healthy diet meal, perform some sort of physical activity and most importantly get the right amount of sleep. These small efforts will allow your brain to think freely. You will feel confident and full of energy.

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