Irish Times: Reflections on the collective mental health trauma of Covid-19
June Shannon of the Irish Times spoke with specialist members of the CPsychI Faculty of Old Age Psychiatry to highlight the lasting effects of the pandemic on the mental health of older adults, with advice on how to regain confidence and maintain resilience.
Read a segment from the article below or on the Irish Times website here.
Reflections on the collective mental health trauma of Covid-19
As we emerge from the pandemic, many people will suffer psychological problems for years to come
June Shannon | 11 January 2023
It is now more than three years since the emergence of Covid-19 which led to a long period of uncertainty and interrupted lives.
In January 2020, human-to-human transmission was confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the following month the first case of the disease was confirmed in Ireland.
Three years ago, life, as we knew it, was put on hold, livelihoods were lost and childhoods suspended.
Words that once seemed alien, such as social distancing and variants, have become all too familiar over the past 36 months.
It is hard to imagine that we have lost almost three years of our lives to a pandemic; harder still that, to date, according to the WHO, more than 6.6 million people have died.
Older people were another sector of society whose mental wellbeing was at increased risk during the pandemic due to factors such as fear of infection, loneliness and social isolation. According to experts at the Faculty of Psychiatry of Old Age at the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, long periods of isolation and dependency on others was “detrimental” to older people’s confidence.
“People under our care have shared their experiences of their changed perceptions about themselves. ‘I never thought of myself as a vulnerable person before this,’ was the experience of some people. The forced isolation forced a change in the opposite direction to what was persistently advised and fostered as part of healthy ageing before Covid. This caused a major disconnect in families. Elderly relatives living alone received fewer visits, people could not do their own shopping because of the fear of infection, and this increased dependency on others was quite detrimental to people’s confidence. News, conversations on the media were dominated by deaths and infection rates, so even in their isolation, there was an element of fear and not being able to escape the emotional impact of the pandemic.”
The introduction of vaccines and the easing of restrictions in particular brought with it a hope of restoration of normality for older people, the faculty said. It advised that in order to maintain good mental health over the coming months, older people should try to remain as active as possible. “Stay active, look after your cardiovascular health, eat well, don’t smoke, if you drink, do so in moderation, and stay connected. Loneliness is very bad for your physical and mental health.”
We have learned as a society the negative impact of social isolation and we hope that we can plan for a more socially engaged and connected society in the future, it added.