Psychological effects of coronavirus will linger long after it's gone

Post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the pandemic has been singled out, with fears that it will hit many people only in the months to come.

Picture: Pixabay.com

JOHANNESBURG - Experts are warning that while the primary threat of COVID-19 is physical, other factors such as the impact on mental health will linger for quite some time.

Post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by the pandemic has been singled out, with fears that it will hit many people only in the months to come.

In July, Thabiso Mokhele became one of the faces of the dire economic effects of COVID-19 when he died in his home in Lenasia alone from hunger.

A month before, Nomzamo Ndlovu had lost both her parents to the virus - four days apart.

It’s believed her father, a 64-year-old nurse at Milpark Hospital, passed it on to his wife, also a health care professional who had just retired.

“I get hurt when people start talking about COVID, cause I have this thing, if this COVID was never here, my parents would have still been here," a distraught Ndlovu said.

The emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic is evident in the number of calls received by the South African Depression and Anxiety Group's (Sadag) helpline.

They doubled with an average of 1,400 people reaching out every day as Sadag's Cassey Chambers explains: “We received over 600 calls from various health care workers, including doctors."

The country's health infrastructure also buckled under the weight of the pandemic, compounding years-long problems.

Hospitals were overwhelmed, leading to tough decisions about what medical care would be prioritised.

But there was some slight reprieve when the government’s contentious decision to ban the sale of alcohol and cigarettes allowed health facilities to better function and manage cases.

Auxiliary facilities in the form of field hospitals also played a big role to alleviate the pressure.

As the country navigates a second wave of infections, experts are confident they are better prepared to handle the response, but the effects will linger for millions of people around the country and the world for the foreseeable future.

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