Covid-19 pandemic is causing a mental health 'tsunami', experts say

Global risk report for 2021 says mental health problems could become bigger than the virus next year

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The Covid-19 pandemic is creating a mental health "tsunami" that will sweep across the world, a new report found.

Risk Outlook report for 2021 by International SOS, a health and security services company, said mental health problems could become bigger than the virus next year.

The report is based on the findings of Ipsos MORI, a marketing research company. Ipsos surveyed more than 1,400 risk professionals in 99 countries.

Some experts have described it as a mental health tsunami that will sweep through all countries rich and poor

Dr Irene Lai, medical director at International SOS, said: “In Australia and the Asia Pacific, we are seeing a steep rise in the need for mental health support.

“Some experts described it as a mental health tsunami that will sweep through all countries rich and poor.

“Mental health issues will be felt for years after the pandemic is over.”

Ms Lai said the mental effect was felt not only by Covid-19 survivors, but also by people who have not been infected.

Working from home and in isolation creates psychological vulnerabilities, leaving employees at increased risk of suffering from anxiety, depression and stress.

Working from home also puts a strain on work-life balance, especially for employees who were caregivers.

Sally Llewellyn, Regional Security Director, International Sos. Courtesy: International Sos

Some employees were also working in unfit working conditions, adding to mental fatigue.

More than 40 per cent of Americans are struggling with mental health issues because of the pandemic, report said.

One in three surveyed risk professionals said mental health issues would probably cause a decrease in employee productivity in 2021.

Experts expect more employees could take sick leave as a result of mental health issues than Covid-19 symptoms.

Risk outlook

Sally Llewellyn, regional security director at International SOS, said they had predicted that mental health would be a big risk factor in 2020, but Covid-19 exacerbated the condition.

"Across the Middle East there are people who are away from loved ones and many have not been able to return to their families," she said.

"In comparison to what is happening in other parts of the world, in the UAE, there is a solid response when it comes to supporting businesses.”

Employers are aware of their responsibilities towards the health and well-being of employees, she said.

The report also said that the risk level to the global workforce was at its highest since 2016.

People surveyed said the biggest risks in 2021 would be ecopolitical turbulence, civil unrest and crime, and mental health problems.

The study found that 79 per cent of people felt travel risks had increased in 2020, up from 51 per cent in 2019.

Those polled said the most likely causes of evacuation in 2021 would be Covid-19 medical reasons, border closure, employees returning to their home countries, security threats, natural disaster and epidemics.