“Mental Illness, disorders that affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors”
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2) has caused anxiety and grief among minorities because of its infectivity, lethality, and lack of curative treatment. This illness can cause a wide range of manifestations, from no symptoms, to mild respiratory symptoms, to a fatal respiratory condition. COVID-19 can also enter the brain through the nose, and can cause significant inflammation and produce a variety of symptoms ranging from inability to taste or smell all the way to coma.
We have identified a wide range of psychiatric complications in patients with COVID-19 including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, as well as hallucinations. In addition, as many patients receive treatments that use steroids (cortisone) may also have psychotic presentations. It is now being recognized that long-term survivors of COVID-19 may have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder months after the diagnosis.
This is, by no means, nothing new. Indeed, the first better-known correlation between the onset of psychotic symptoms in response to viral illness was documented during the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. Individuals infected with influenza at that time, were noted to have a variety of psychiatric sequelae, including hysteria, melancholy, and insanity. Similar findings were noted in later influenza pandemics, so much so that they were termed, “psychoses of influenza”
Currently, in the hospital setting, COVID-19 has psychiatric implications that affect the outcome of patients. One in four people hospitalized with COVID-19 may experience delirium during their illness, a known problem among hospital patients, which can increase risk of death or extend time in the hospital.
What is even more concerning is the fact that we all have manifested some degree of anxiety during this pandemic. However, minorities are at a particular risk. A recent article that reviewed evidence from 24 prior studies in scientific journals found that discrimination of minority groups is likely to be associated with an increased risk of psychosis. The more discrimination people experienced, the greater the risk of having psychotic experiences became. Moreover, minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high-quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we need to be vigilant of the potential psychiatric conditions associated to this illness. Understanding these symptoms and seeking help early, may modify the long-term outcomes. COVID-19 is extremely stressful for everyone, but we can beat it together.