It´s time to focus on mental health!
October 10 has been World Mental Health Day for 30 years. However, the situation of the Covid-19 pandemic has only served to highlight the worldwide importance of this day and the year-round activities associated with it, as well as how fragile our mental well-being is, and that mental health issues are as such, for all of us.
In summary, what has changed in our daily functioning over the last year, how many sudden challenges have we been forced to face, and how many unexpected changes have we met?
(If you will allow me), as a work psychologist, I will focus on the area of work:
- Many workers stayed at home during the lockdown. Many of them continued to work, but many have also lost their jobs, while those who continued to come to work were exposed to the risk of infection on a daily basis.
- Homeworking in many cases has caught people (and entire households) without the necessary technical equipment. Hugely increased online working has meant, for many, an often unintended blurring between working and non-working hours, effectively extending working hours, and increasing intensity, which has brought added fatigue and mental exhaustion.
- Working parents were not only in charge of their work duties, they were also given all-day supervision of preschoolers and schoolchildren who stayed at home after schools closed.
- What has happened with the reduction of in-person social contact in the workplace? Physical isolation soon turned into social isolation. There was a reduction in mutual communication and a decline in social support.
- Feelings of loneliness, insecurity, mental tension and excessive stress have increased ...
- And yet we go further ...
Nevertheless, a current worldwide study of psychologists (Aknin et al., Preprint 2021) points to the strength of the individual psychological "immune" system, so that the effects of the pandemic do not have the negative effects initially thought. The study reports that the ubiquitous pandemic situation has eroded the mental health of people around the world, but the negative effects have not yet been (increasingly) confirmed. Prof. Frederik Anseel, the President of the European Association of Occupational and Organizational Psychology reports: “It is clear that people have found ways to overcome the turbulent times of the pandemic and have developed new approaches, new ways of thinking and being, as well as providing and gaining social support. It is indeed remarkable to take into account the disruption and duration of the pandemic, as we have been able to adapt to the new norm."
The recommendations of the already cited psychological study (Aknin et al., Preprint 2021) are clear: closely monitor the causes, changes and effects of mental discomfort and distress (negative stress), intensively monitor mental health of patients, as well as those at risk. The current situation requires immediate investment to ensure and launch crisis interventions and prevention, enable the safe operation of preschool facilities and schools, strengthen the possibilities and availability (including online) of therapy, ensure a continuous increase in awareness of mental health and mental well-being in workplaces, schools, media in the health and social care system care.
Yes, we get used to "functioning the new way" and more than ever we realize that mental health needs to be addressed, that our resilience and hardiness is not inexhaustible. In the "new normal", we should try to find time for ourselves and our loved ones. Let's take a break from work and responsibilities, such as walking in nature, playing sports or listening to music. And it will help if we are not silent. Let's talk about mental health!
Reference: Aknin, L., De Neve, J.-E., Dunn, E., Fancourt, D., Goldberg, E., Helliwell, J. F., Jones, S. P., Karam, E., Layard, R., Lyubomirsky, S., Rzepa, A., Saxena, S., Thornton, E. M., VanderWeele, T. J., Whillans, A. V., Zaki, J., Karadag Caman, O., & Ben Amor, Y. (2021). Mental health during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic: a review and recommendations for moving forward. Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Text: Denisa Fedáková, Institute of Social Sciences Centre of Social and Psychological Sciences SAS
Foto: archív CSPV SAV