Quarantine and mental health

Published August 19, 2021, 6:00 AM

by Wilma C. Inventor-Miranda

While I am writing this, I am still in the province (which is actually good for me) and had been working most of the time from home. We have a garden which we renovated to be able to provide jogging, biking, and walking areas  so we do not need to go out in the streets or parks to exercise.

I am just wondering what life for me and my husband will be if we were stuck in our condo in Manila. And to be confined in a condo for days is no joke although it is still a lot better than to be quarantined in a hotel.

I have a friend who was quarantined in a foreign country (per requirements of the country of destination) for 10 days and it is a good thing his room has a window. He has to pay more though. At least he can see the outside world while cooped up inside his small room. However, another friend who arrived in Manila from abroad was quarantined (again as a protocol for arriving Filipino residents) in a room without windows (for some good reason he has to get this room)! Imagine, what his life would be like inside the four corners of the room for 10 days! 

A survey conducted and published in Molecular Psychiatry dated January 2021 shows that the participants of the survey who had undergone quarantine, reported higher prevalence rates of moderate to severe symptoms of depression than those who were not quarantined. 

The survey shows that 34.1% of participants who had experienced quarantine during COVID-19 reported having at least one of the psychological symptoms including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and acute stress, which is higher compared to those who did not experience being quarantined which is at 27.3%. It indicates that quarantine measures have clearly adverse effects on the mental health of a person. 

And most vulnerable to mental health unlike physical health are those in the younger generation or in the range of 18-24 years old which has the highest mental health issues during COVID-19 at 56.2%! On the other hand, those in the oldest range of 65+ age are at the lowest in terms of mental health problems which is at 29.3% (source: kff.org The Implications of Covid19 for Mental Health and Substance Use dated February 10, 2021). 

There are already many stressors aside from quarantine that this COVID-19 brings. In fact,  (from the same source kff.org) compared to the period January-June 2019 which is at 11%, the average share of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder and/or depressive disorder was at 41% in January 2021. The quarantine is making it worse. 

And in terms of countries belonging to a lower-middle-income country like the Philippines compared to an upper-middle-income country like China, the Filipinos reported significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress than the Chinese (source:frontiersin.org article dated February 9, 2021).

Vaccinations are on the rise in the Philippines although this is still slow compared to other countries. The problems also include people refusing to be vaccinated and the need for us who are vaccinated to continue observing protocols to minimize if not altogether contain the virus. The country will still continue to be on restrictions such as quarantines because there are still many unvaccinated Filipinos and that means more mental health issues aside from physical health. 

Whenever there are pandemics, history shows that mental health problems due to disasters or crises continue to persist even after the physical health problems are long gone. That means it will continue to plague not only our country but the whole world even if the pandemic is no longer there.

The financial and health crisis brought about by the pandemic plus the quarantine issue will further exacerbate the mental health problems of the people. So how can we help our people to maintain good health not only physically but mentally as well?

There should be a good information campaign on what to do when people are quarantined. For example, if you are quarantined in very small spaces, you can continue to exercise through online workouts and to get as much sun as possible through the windows if possible. These two activities are known to produce happy hormones.

Government can also help in alleviating the stress and anxieties of the people by providing online counseling although the problem in most countries is the lack of health professionals to provide counseling. They can also provide budgets and funds to take care of mental health issues just as there are funds to provide for the physical health issues.

And very important too, is to campaign for individuals to take care of their mental health by strengthening their spiritual health. There is a study that confirms that strong spiritual health can help avoid mental health issues. In times of uncertainty, one’s spiritual belief can strengthen one’s resolve to overcome anything that one might face during the crisis. 

A study published in mentalhealth.org.uk the title of which is The impact of spirituality on mental health states that “findings show that a collaborative approach to religious coping (i.e. the individual collaborates with ‘God’ in coping with stress) is associated with the greatest improvement in mental health”. 

Bottom line, there seems to be a domino effect – your spiritual health can affect your mental health which can also affect your physical health. So, we need to encourage others with mental health issues to look up since when we look around everything seems hopeless. But when we look up, nothing seems impossible with God in control, including our mental health

(Wilma Miranda is the Managing Partner of Inventor, Miranda & Associates, CPAs, BOD Member of KPS Outsourcing, Inc. and Chair of the FINEX Media Affairs Committee. The opinions expressed herein are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of these institutions) [email protected]