How Infectious Disease Outbreaks Affect Mental Health


The Will County of Publich Health shared a list from the American Red Cross to recognize signs of stress.

Jada Carter, staff writer

As Government officials and public health leaders complete daily reports on COVID-19, the growth of fear and anxiety affects the mental health of the public. It is not only the illness that becomes a pandemic, but the same can be inferred about fear, mourning, and despair,” Jacqueline Levin, a psychiatrist at North Shore University Hospital in New York, writes in Psychiatry of Pandemics. It is shown through years of data from other outbreaks that there are psychological consequences that come with pandemics.

Many researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examine the mental health consequences of a pandemic. They explain “psychological contagion” and how many strong emotions of anxiety and fear tend to increase among all individuals.  Researchers stated, “may drive behaviors that can include evacuation panic, resistance to public health measures overburdening of hospitals and clinicians, blaming of the government, and abandoning responsibilities to families and jobs.” During these unsettling times, it is common to experience intense emotions since the coronavirus outbreak still remains uncertain.

In addition, frontline health care professionals are also at risk for mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

In a statement from Regardt Ferreira, Ph.D.,  an associate professor at Tulane University School of Social Work, expresses, “Medical professionals are likely to experience fear, anxiety, and a sense of powerlessness. There could even be aspects such as rage and anger toward the folks who have not followed the social distancing protocols.” Due to the constant stress at their job and additional stress at home, it can take a huge toll on their mental health in their everyday lives. 

As the outbreak prolongs, the fear of the unknown affects everyone mentally, the future remains unpredictable as more time passes.

In summary, the duration of the coronavirus outbreak remains unresolved. As the rise in cases and deaths from COVID-19 continues, the mental health of the public and healthcare workers remain at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.