COVID-19 CRISIS: HOW MASS UNEMPLOYMENT WILL IMPACT COLLECTIVE MENTAL HEALTH?

Dr. Hira Tanveer

3 min read

mass-unemployment

Many people have found themselves denuded of a job ever since the government enforced the quarantine lockdown in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This mass unemployment and forced lockdown have been an effort on part of many countries throughout the world to battle the spread of COVID-19.

Needless to say, this mass unemployment is taking an emotional toll on the people. Read on to know what will be the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of people, and what they should do about it.

Pakistan: one of the hardest-hit economies 

According to the United Nations report, developing countries across the globe, including Pakistan, Sub Saharan Africa, and Argentina, will be amongst the hardest-hit countries by the economic shockwaves that coronavirus has caused. This crisis comes as the debts mount, the exports diminish and the currency devalues. In fact, The World Bank has projected negative GDP growth for Pakistan, in the year 2019-2020.

Needless to say, the most vulnerable tier of the economy is the lower and middle socio-economic group, most of whom are self-employed and daily-wagers. The national unemployment rate is, therefore, expected to escalate, with a massive increase in the number of poor people in the country. 

Mental health impact of mass unemployment due to coronavirus

The Institute of Fiscal Studies, UK, predicts that the health impact caused by the tumultuous macroeconomic situation will be complex and far-reaching. This impact is going to be quite multifaceted in terms of the different regions, generations, and socioeconomic groups it affects, with the hardest hit being the young workers and low-income families. 

It’s not surprising, therefore, to see a rise in emotional and mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. The constant uncertainty about the future, combined with isolation has taken a great toll on individuals and will continue to do so in the coming months ahead. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that globally, in the year 2019, a loss of $ 1 trillion per year would be lost due to decreased productivity, secondary to depression and other mental health illnesses. This year this figure will be much higher, due to this pandemic. 

From previous recessions, we understand that an environment of economic downturn takes a toll on mental health, and causes a massive spike in the mental and emotional health issues. In fact, this type of mental health issue can span decades, even after the recession has ended.

Even though many governments have announced relief packages for the unemployed, experts figure that mass unemployment is not only about the money, but also about peoples’ need to work.

People also face mental health issues because they are unable to spend their time productively. People who have their work in life, have a purpose, and losing their job means they lose meaning in their life. 

Art Goldsmith, professor of economics, states that the emotional footprint of this novel coronavirus will be much larger. For a country like ours, not only mass unemployment is an issue, but the meager healthcare facilities dealing with mental health is also a big problem.

Our country is not equipped to deal with a horde of people battling anxiety and depression, and provide mental healthcare to them.   

Additionally, the fear of mass unemployment and uncertainty of the future is compounded by social isolation and loneliness. Research shows that loneliness can have a dire impact on health, and can be equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

With zero foresight on how long the situation will last, the impact of coronavirus on the mental and physical health makes is very disconcerting. 

What role should companies play in supporting the mental health of their employees?

Organizational psychologist, Cathleen Swody says that employers (who are able to) should take care of their employees, especially in their time of need. According to Swody, people who were already prone to depression and anxiety would be facing a much more difficult time. As such, companies need new protocols to manage workload at this time, as well as, manage the mental and physical health of their employees.

For someone who is battling mental illness, taking care of their physical health can take a back seat. Therefore, attention should be paid to the mental and physical wellbeing of the remote workers, and companies should urge their employees to stay healthy. 

Another way that companies can take care of the mental health of their employees is to reassure them that they will be able to keep their jobs. Some high-profile companies are already making such statements publicly and assuring their employees that their jobs—and paychecks are secure. This step is bound to alleviate some of the anxiety of the workers.

For employers who cannot make such a promise, remaining transparent with their employees is vital, as it can still help to assuage the anxiety of their workforce.

If you feel that your mental health is taking a toll due to COVID-19, then seek professional help and book an appointment with a top psychologist in Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Hira Tanveer Dr. Hira Tanveer is an MBBS doctor and currently serving at CMH Lahore. Writing is her favorite hobby as she loves to share professional advice on trendy healthcare issues, general well-being, a healthy diet, and lifestyle.