The link between mental health issues and societal events

The link between mental health issues and societal events

The year 2020 has been very eventful, to say the least. From the Australian bushfires in January to the declaration of the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic in March to the recent resurgence of protests in Hong Kong and of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

The coronavirus crisis, on its own, is already negatively impacting public mental health. Couple that with a barrage of major societal events that are painted with tear gas, police brutality, and horrified screams of protesters, and you have a recipe for a mental health epidemic.

Need help coping with stress during the COVID-19 outbreak? Follow these tips.

BLM demonstrations: Protesters at risk of developing PTSD

The slow, horrific death of George Floyd, who cried for help as a police officer knelt on his neck, has sparked BLM protests in all 50 US states and around the world.

While some demonstrations were peaceful, others turned violent, with police throwing tear gas and smoke grenades and shooting rubber bullets at protesters. The protesters and those who witnessed the violence were left struggling with the trauma they experienced, angry over what transpired and fearful of what will happen next. Some of them have shared on social media that they’ve been dealing with sleeping problems, crying spells, and feelings of irritability, rage, terror, and helplessness.

Dr. Rachel Mitchum-Elahee, a psychologist who works with military veterans and civilians with PTSD, states that these protesters are more likely to develop PTSD because of their firsthand exposure to violence. “PTSD develops from seeing and/or experiencing trauma or even the fear of trauma where it's possible that you or somebody else will be seriously injured or lose your/their life,” she says.

Hong Kong protests: Growing reports of PTSD and depression

Initially triggered by the proposed extradition bill, anti-government protests rocked Hong Kong for months starting in March 2019. While coronavirus fears momentarily put a damper on them, the recent passage of the new security law by China has reawakened the political unrest in the streets of Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, these events have also led to a host of mental health issues. A recent University of Hong Kong study reports that more than two million adults — almost one in three adults — in the city have shown signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the prolonged and still ongoing protests in the city. This number is six times higher than what was reported after the Occupy protests in 2014.

The authors of the study also say that the current mental health situation in Hong Kong is comparable to what is normally observed after large-scale disasters, armed conflicts, or terrorist attacks. Not only that, they estimate that the ongoing political unrest will trigger an additional 140,000 adults to seek outpatient support services for depression and around 360,000 adults for PTSD.

Nurturing your mental health amidst serious societal events

While you may not always have control over societal events, you have direct control over how you care for your mental health. For example, you can sign up for individual or group psychotherapy so a professional can help you navigate and process your experiences in a healthy manner.

Book an appointment today with Meridian Psychiatric Partners. We offer both telehealth and in-person consultations.

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