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Posted Thursday August, 20th 2020

Social Inequalities Drive Increased Mental Distress Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

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Over the past few months, mental health experts have predicted a sharp rise in psychiatric disorders and an upcoming “tsunami of mental illness.” They attribute the increase to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and suggest that the fear of sickness and death, and the isolation caused by lockdowns will lead to an explosion of mental illness across the globe. It has also been suggested that experts must respond with an equally sharp increase in specialized mental health services.

In an open letter in Wellcome Open Research, prominent researchers, led by noted medical sociologist Nikolas Rose of King’s College London, oppose this hurried conclusion. Instead, they note that an increase in emotional distress and psychological suffering are normal responses to the consequences of a global pandemic and not a marker of mental illness. In light of Britain’s misguided response to the pandemic, they argue that what is required is increased funding and government support for practical needs such as housing, peer support, and universal basic income.

Despite the alarm sounded by mental health experts across the globe about the impending psychiatric crisis that is to follow the COVID-19 epidemic, skeptics have warned against preemptively pathologizing common responses to these difficult circumstances. Others have noted that connections forged between COVID-19 and mental health seem to ignore the perspectives, experiences, and concerns of the Global South.

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