April 21st, 2020

We need to act now

Minimizing the harmful effects of physical distancing
Mental Health
"The reality of physical distancing has well and truly set in. For millions of people around the world, it has meant huge changes to our daily lives. This extensive economic downturn as well as increased physical isolation, loneliness, anxiety and stress has created a perfect storm that threatens our mental health and wellbeing.

We are in an unprecedented situation and it will be awhile before the full the scale of the mental health crisis becomes apparent. Unfortunately, this comes at a time amid an already ongoing public health crisis in mental health, compounding an existing problem. At this stage, we do have some clues and early anecdotal evidence as to what is potentially happening in millions of households around the world and what could lie ahead. 

Earlier this year, before the majority of countries announced stay at home orders of various forms, the Lancet published a review of 24 papers which documented the psychological impact of quarantine. Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, and anger.

Additionally, researchers found that people quarantined during the Ebola, SARS and MERS outbreaks were very likely to develop a wide range of symptoms of poor mental health including low mood, stress, anxiety, irritability, depression and post-traumatic stress. These effects are already being reported in the first research papers from China about the Covid-19 lockdown. 

For parents who have been quarantined with children, the mental health toll appears to be even greater. In one study, over a quarter (28%) of parents reported sufficient symptoms to warrant a diagnosis of a “trauma-related mental health disorder.” Furthermore, some experts have speculated that once restrictions are lifted, we will face a secondary epidemic of burnouts and stress-related absenteeism in the latter half of this year. That is why it is crucial that we prepare now for the help that will be needed. 

To this end, we need to make sure that people understand that a psychological reaction to living through a situation such as this, is completely normal and to be expected. We also need to ensure that we have appropriate self-help tools that address the needs of large populations who have been affected by physical distancing and those interventions are available to everyone who needs them.

When it comes to offering psychological support to their populations, we know that governments can be slow to react and struggle to communicate with different audiences. Therefore, non-profits and community organizations must do what they can. Pandemic planning and recovery must address the mental health needs created by this crisis. 

Movember focuses on how to talk to men and what works for them. That is why we are launching a set of online tools over the next few months that provide guidance on how to have conversations about mental health and offer positive parenting support.

In these extraordinary times, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to give men and their families the knowledge and tools to enable them to better cope through this pandemic. Together we will make it happen." 
~ Michelle Terry, CEO at Movember 
For more information visit:  movember.com/stayingconnected