Turkey has been in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic since March 2020. One year on, it continues to take a toll on the public psyche. A mental health expert says the fear the pandemic instilled in the public triggered significant mental health problems including anxiety and depression.
Associate professor Demet Sağlam Aykut said the psychological effect of the pandemic can cause severe and permanent mental problems.
Turkey has lost more than 67,000 people to COVID-19 and reported more than 7.6 million cases since the onset of the pandemic. Currently, the number of daily cases fluctuates below 30,000 while daily fatalities rarely drop below 200. The situation was far grimmer last year and the country strived to take every measure to stop the chain of infections, from lockdowns to closure of businesses. Restrictions were only lifted this summer, though a mask mandate is still in place for public areas.
Aykut said that the pandemic and related issues triggered enough factors to pave the way for the development of mental health problems, such as the fear of being infected, being forced to stay indoors (for patients and those who came into contact with patients) during quarantine, uncertainty about the future and lack of proper information about the pandemic.
She says the aspects of pandemic affecting mental health are many and, along with a fear of death or suffering from a severe form of the disease, people also faced worsening health problems as they tended to shy away from hospitals for fear of getting infected there. On the economic side, fear of losing one’s job (being laid off due to economic reasons) and inability to work while isolated added to mental health woes. “The pandemic is like a tsunami for mental health,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Wednesday.
“Some people tend to be repetitive and seek safety through their behavior as they believe they can exert utmost protection for themselves against the pandemic. Those with high anxiety of infection, for instance, sometimes go to extremes to ensure hygiene, like excessively washing hands and sometimes worse. They tend to spend more time for protection than necessary,” she said.
Aykut also warned that, along with paving the way for mental disorders, the pandemic may cause existing disorders that were previously treated to resurface.
“Throughout the pandemic, depression symptoms, anxiety disorders, feelings of guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder, delirium and even suicides emerged,” she noted.