Experts warn of alarming spike in mental health emergencies caused by coronavirus lockdowns
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May 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – As societies around the world remain heavily restricted in the name of containing COVID-19, a growing chorus of voices is expressing concern that the lockdown efforts may actually be doing more harm than good to public health.
As of May 15, the world is estimated to have seen more than 4.5 million cases of COVID-19, with more than 306,000 deaths and 1.7 million recoveries. In the United States, many of those deaths have occurred within nursing homes, and mounting evidence suggests that far more of the public has contracted and recovered from the virus than the official count indicates.
In response, many states have imposed strict limits on “non-essential” activity, including delays of non-urgent medical procedures. As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, and steep declines have been seen in people seeking and receiving care for everything from cancer to heart disease. Now, concern is building about the mental health toll of the lockdowns.
As compiled by the right-leaning educational nonprofit Just Facts, several recent studies have found a number of warning signs, such as anywhere from a third to a half of US adults reporting that anxiety related to COVID-19 is significantly straining their mental health in a variety of ways, from fear of losing loved ones to frustration with losing their jobs through no fault of their own.
Just Facts also cites several studies affirming that such mental can be lethal, such as a 2004 Lancet paper finding that not only do “stress and depression result in an impairment of the immune response and might promote the initiation and progression of some types of cancer,” but that “lack of social interactions” – such as the lack imposed by “social distancing” and home isolation – can be a contributing factor.
“The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil – they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department, acknowledged this week in a report to the United Nations.
Dr. Rick Fitzgibbons, a psychiatrist and director of the Institute for Marital Healing outside Philadelphia, agrees. He appeared on Relevant Radio Wednesday, where he argued that reopening the economy as soon as possible was essential to curbing the mental health threat.
“My recommendation is the implementation of the Turkish protocol which has successfully allowed adults to continue to work and to be protected from COVID morbidity and mortality through the use of HCQ [hydroxychloroquine], which protects the lungs, etc. and a Japanese antiviral [favipiravir] if HCQ is not effective,” he explained.
The Turkish approach Fitzgibbons referenced is far less restrictive than that of the United States. It only imposes general lockdowns during the weekends, and during the week only forbids those younger than 20 and older than 65 from leaving their homes.
"Doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine to everyone who is tested positive for coronavirus," explained Dr. Sema Turan, a member of the Turkish government's coronavirus advisory board. Together, HCQ and favipiravir seem to "delay or eliminate the need for intensive care for patients,” in his experience.
A growing number of medical experts also argue that, in light of the fact that COVID-19 primarily affects the elderly and immunocompromised, but poses relatively little risk to the young, policymakers should pursue a narrower strategy of protecting the former groups while allowing the rest of society to resume normal life. “If we focus on the elderly, we will bring a death rate that is likely no more than 1% down to fractions of a percent,” says Dr. Donald Yealy, chair of emergency medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.