Sure it may be argued that the pandemic is not nearly over but for a lot of people the lifting of most restrictions and return to normal life is a sign that that it is. Unfortunately, we can't start celebrating since now we have to deal with the aftereffects of not only the virus itself but the measures that were taken as a response.

The severe after effects of the Covid pandemic on mental health

There is a somewhat weird sentiment that many people have been experiencing in 2022 and that is the feeling that it is still 2020 or that we have somehow skipped 2 years. This happens because of many reasons. One of them might be the fact that we all just want to forget these horrible 2 years and move on, but that is not all. The isolation and measures taken against Covid as well as a departure from normal daily activity for 2 years had an effect on our brains similar to being in suspended animation. This is because of our minds work. The more routine and "samy" feeling we have in our daily lives, the more time seems to pass faster as if nothing happened during that period of time. Sure, even before the pandemic, a lot of people had the same routine every day but they used to offset that with weekend hangouts, family BBQ's, mini vacations, traveling, and other such activities to pull us out of the routine of daily life. But with restrictions on going out, traveling, meeting our loved ones, etc., there was literary nothing to be done but sit at home in front of the TV screen which constantly filled out minds with scary news of the pandemic. We'll get to that later.

Thus everyone became trapped in their own homes and the streets became empty. This, to nobody's surprise had a huge impact on our mental health. But to what degree, well, let's just say that we will be assessing the damage for years and years to come. The question which will probably be more relevant than any other in the future will be: "What caused greater damage to our mental health and society as a whole? The pandemic or the absurd, in many cases, response from authorities around the world. From restrictions that make no sense to going hand in hand with the media in creating mass panic there are a lot of, to put it gently, problematic aspects to the way our governments and our media responded to the pandemic.

All in all, the forced isolation, the demonization of people who didn't wear masks, and after that, those who din not want to get vaccinated, the constant plastering of so called Covid deaths all over the TV (people died, most of the time because of complications that got worse when they contracted Covid and not from the virus itself), and so on created so much stress, panic, fear and anxiety that it literary turned some people insane. You have probably heard of people that were physically assaulted because they were not wearing masks and recently, and this is now when things have died down, a man killed his landlord and the landlord's wife in the UK over Covid concerns. But there is a lot to say about how our mental health was affected as well as to why and because of what so let's brake it down.

The intentional spread of panic and fear and its effects

What is it that we always hear when we talk about emergency situations, disasters, etc.? What is the first advice that is given? Is it: start panicking, make rash decision, let fear control your actions? Or is it: maintain calm, do not panic and the sorts? Based on the initial and later response from many politicians, governments and media channels you would think that sending the population into an absolute state of panic is the solution. The people that asked for calm and rational decisions were mocked and there are even media personalities who straight up said on tv that: "we need to make people panic as hell" discussing about how to deal with the pandemic. Their reasoning was that people were not taking it serious enough. An absurd idea which was targeted at a minority of skeptical individuals who either didn't believe it to be true yet or downplayed it.

It all started innocuous enough with reports on the growing infection cases which is normal to be shared with the population and expected from the media. But it soon spiraled out of control with videos that had nothing to do with the virus showing people in hazmat suits and bodies been carried out creating mass panic. This was already a terrible blow to our mental health. Humans are very social animals so by noticing others panic around us, slowly but surely it will also affect us and this is how mass panic is created. Then you get situations like people storming stores and markets to stock up on supplies including the ever essential toilet paper which disappeared first from the shelves.

Oil, salt, sugar and other cooking essentials were next along with every type of disinfectant possible. Meanwhile, the media giddy by the rise in clicks and viewership saw this as a great opportunity to increase their ratings to the maximum. You know what they say: "Never let a good crisis, go to waste". So instead of urging for calm and rational decision making, the messaging was instead: panic, the apocalypse is here. Immediately, panicked people started making phone calls to emergency channels to inquire more about the situations. As things progressed, a study showed that over 35% of the calls to help lines were from people experiencing extreme fear. They basically did not understand anything from the confusing mess of messaging from the TV and were in fear for their lives. Many believed that if they went outside and contracted this new virus, it was an automatic death sentence. The entire process of the pandemic and the response should become a case study of how not to deal with the spread of a virus and how to be careful with people's mental health in situations like these.

Confusing and illogical measures and their outcome

As if this was not enough. The response from a lot of governments around the world had been inept at best. From not wanting to restrict flights from china and immediate countries for fear of being called racists to confusing messages about how the virus propagates and affects people as well as what measures everyone should take to protect themselves, all of these only further added to the mental health degradation of the populace at large. But maybe the worst decision was the mandatory isolation and work from home measures. Now, don't get me wrong, trying to make sure the virus does not spread to much is a given but the way it was done, amid the panic and everything created such an oppressive environment that mental health problems started to rapidly develop among many individuals.

Isolating people from their loved ones in order to "protect them" also had an immense negative effect. When people were already forced to cut most contact with the outside world and then constantly blasted with negative and somber news on TV, the support from their loved ones was critical. Depriving people of even that was a huge mistake and further accentuated the downwards spiral of the collective mental health. Sure, making sure that the elderly are kept more safe since they were the most vulnerable was a good strategy but for younger members of the family to avoid each other, including physical contact, when they lived in the same house was nonsensical. Couple this with mixed messages all the time on how the virus is spreading (from contact, from surfaces, airborne, etc. ) everything rapidly spiraled out of control.

But maybe among the most problematic if not insidious act of the media, the act which had the worse effect on our mental health and sent people into a constant state of fear was how the media started recalling every day the number of infections and so called "Covid deaths". Now, we could barely excuse reporting on numbers of infected, albeit it should have been something done every couple of days instead of daily but the so called reporting of Covid deaths was inexcusable for a couple of reasons. First of all, the virus itself does not cause death. It just acts as an accelerator for other preexisting conditions just gives the individual some conditions which can lead to death like problems with the respiratory system. In other words the correct terminology should be deaths "with Covid" not "by" Covid. Why is this so important? Because in the minds of people the the virus became this extremely deadly disease of which you had no change of escaping when the actual survivability rate was over 97% of the general population and over 99% for the young. Also reporting the "Covid deaths" daily or even hourly further engrained the image of an apocalyptic deadly virus in the minds of people. Imagine the nationwide, worldwide, and local deaths from the flu or other disease were reported like this. People would go insane if they didn't have enough information about the cause of death. This reporting was only done like this in order to create artificial panic in order to drive people to glue their eyes to their TV screens 24/7 as well as give up their freedoms to the government in exchange for "protection".

What happened then, was a chain reaction. People in the service industry had their businesses closed down, their employees laid off and lives overall completely ruined. What do you think that happened to the mental health of these people? How would you feel if you lost your business or your job and could not sustain yourself or your family anymore? And on top of this you loose contact with your social groups aside from phone or video interactions. With the economy plummeting, grim news spread by the media non-stop and a constant state of fear, the consequences will be felt for decades to come. Also to list some of the decision and measures taken "against" the spread of the virus that made no sense, here are a couple of them: wearing a mask in a restaurant until you reach the table after which you can pull your mask down to eat, closing the stores earlier instead of prolonging the hours in order to spread people out, wearing masks in open areas or in areas with very few people around, banning people from going outside at night when there are the least people outside so the least chance of getting infected, and so on and so forth. If I were to list everything here I would be writing a book instead of a blog post.

Not even the children were spared

And I am not talking about the virus here. The children who were the most resilient and protected against the virus also had to suffer greatly from nonsensical decisions. This mostly had to do with how schools worked or stopped working during the brunt of the pandemic as well as forcing children to also get vaccinated against the advice of many, many medical practitioners and experts in this field who advised against such actions seeing how children were already the most protected against the virus. Not sending children to school for a short period of time would have been ok but switching to a so-called online learning, were children would enter video conference with their teachers and have classes this way has probably ruined 1 or 2 years of their education. It is very difficult even as a teenager to focus on learning and listening when you are at home, let alone as a young child. But the most damaging measure has been masking them for 8 hours a day and telling them to keep their distance from one another. This action taken towards children in first few grades horribly affected their ability not only to socialize but also to read people's expressions and communicate appropriately. Numerous mental health specialists and psychologists agree that this fragile age is the most important in developing a person's social interaction skills and their ability to trust people. Not being able to see other people's face and interact with other children like normal can create a generation of socially awkward individuals.

In more extreme situations children were even boxed into between "protective" glass cubicles like some sort of twisted social experiment. How will these children be able to function normally in society later will be hard to tell. Not to mention that children also felt afraid and panicked. In an age where children and teenagers suffer more and more from anxiety, putting extreme fear of this unknown and inevitable enemy into them further eroded their mental health. As if this was not enough a narrative of us vs them was heavily pushed on the news to further dehumanize people who even dared to say something against vaccination, let alone not get one. They were straight up considered criminals. I hope people realize that this tactic was used in Nazi Germany to dehumanize the Jews. Instead of having a healthy conversation and debate about everything that was done and needed to be done, there was only one narrative and anything that went against it was smeared to the ends of the Earth. Fast-forward to 2 years later and now when that narrative is slowly starting to crumble we only hear excuses but no accountability for the damage that was done.

But maybe the scariest part from this entire ordeal is how we won't even realize the extent of the damage to our mental health until years to come. We will have to wait and see how the next generation grows but early sings are not looking to great. This is one of the reasons Neurotops has been pushing so hard for a solution to get mental health treatment to as many people as possible as fast as possible before it is to late. But let's not end things on such a dark note and say that if we here are able to see things this way, that means that others feel and think the same. This gives us hope that others will either try to change things by themselves or join us in our mission to change the mental health industry for the better.

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Julian Sanda
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