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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 137-138

South-East Asian Perspective of COVID-19 Outbreak from a Social Psychiatric Lens

Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

Date of Submission18-May-2020
Date of Decision29-May-2020
Date of Acceptance07-Jun-2020
Date of Web Publication14-Aug-2020

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Chawanun Charnsil
Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/WSP.WSP_38_20

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The emergence of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is disproportionately impacting the population worldwide. The impacts are not only limited in physical health but also mental health, economic status, and life style. All South East Asian countries use lockdown method to control spreading. However, coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak affected more than physical illness. It also affected mental health, economic status, and life style. This article aims to demonstrate the effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) in South-East Asia.

Keywords: Coronavirus, perspective, social, stigma

How to cite this article:
Charnsil C. South-East Asian Perspective of COVID-19 Outbreak from a Social Psychiatric Lens. World Soc Psychiatry 2020;2:137-8

How to cite this URL:
Charnsil C. South-East Asian Perspective of COVID-19 Outbreak from a Social Psychiatric Lens. World Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2020 [cited 2023 May 29];2:137-8. Available from: https://www.worldsocpsychiatry.org/text.asp?2020/2/2/137/292127

The emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is disproportionately impacting worldwide. With more than 650 million people South-East Asian countries have had earlier impacts before western countries.

The impact is not only limited to physical health but also mental health, economic status, and lifestyle. Even when it subsides, there may still be a long-term impact in many aspects that we should prepare for.

Health-care professionals and the government are trying hard to control the spread of this infection. Using lockdowns, experience from the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic, as well as the fact that most people from South East Asia (SEA) do not engage in physical contact as part of their culture has helped the number of new infected cases in SEA decrease [Figure 1].
Figure 1: COVID-19 cases in South-East Asia February15 –April 6, 2020

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Although this may be a good sign, there are still challenging issues that we have to address.

First, with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there are many who may be feeling emotional distress given the uncertainty around the impact, spread, and scope of the disease.[1] People who have to be quarantined, their relatives and medical professionals who have to work hard during this time will be impacted. Those people are not only stressed about the infection but also facing stigma. Previous research suggests that frontline health-care staff may experience both self and social stigma. During the SARS outbreak, 20% of health-care staff in Taiwan and 49% in Singapore reportedly experienced social stigma.[2] Psychiatrists play an important role in supporting patients' management of any psychosocial issues and responses that may arise from the disease's impact on them, their families, and community.

Second, because of the social distancing policy and fear of infection, people who are supposed to come for a follow-up do not do so, worsening their clinical (physical disease and mental disease). This crisis is very likely to exacerbate the mental health of the vulnerable, particularly those who already have existing mental health difficulties that we will see a relapse of many illnesses in a few months.

Third, an economic crisis will follow as we see that many people were laid off. This will cause social problems even after the virus is controlled. The financial implications are profound, although governments have implemented various supportive measures. There is a strong likelihood that many will accumulate financial debt, with possible repercussions on their mental health.

Fourth, daily life for many people has changed, having to work from home. Social distancing has caused people to have less interactions with others and that may precipitate feelings of loneliness. In other ways, most children and spouses remain at home. On the one hand, this is a great time for a family to spend time together. However, on the other hand, if the family is dysfunctional the problem will aggravate at this time. Catherine Cohan, of Pennsylvania State University has studied how relationships are affected by natural disasters and found that time-series analysis indicated that the year following a hurricane, marriage, birth, and divorce rates increased in the 24 counties declared disaster areas compared with the 22 other counties in the state.[3]

Due to social distancing, there will be more internet usage and because of limitations in outdoor activity, internet, and gaming addiction as well decline of social skill should be observed. People will be less familiar with interconnected lifestyles. Finally, people will get familiar with social distancing life. It is easy to buy things online, connect other with social media, study, or have meetings online. This will disrupt connectedness which is protective factor for mental illness.

In time, many bad aspects that we were concerned about at the moment may lead to something better. In 2004, over 5000 people lost their lives when the Asian tsunami hit the Andaman coast of Southern Thailand. The delivery of services was complicated because a large number of tourists were in the area and most countries in South East Asia did not have experience in managing disasters like this before. However, from that event we learned how to provide mental health care in times of a disaster. Facing disaster forced countries to develop new medical services. Social disruption has always quickly forced people to use technology to compensate for that disruption; COVID-19 has expedited that. Many countries now have to use more telemedicine and telepsychiatry to prevent spreading infection in medical professions.[4],[5],[6] We have to be wary of how to maintain good quality of treatment while adapting to these new methods. After the COVID-19 pandemic is over, situation telepsychiatry will be our common practice.

In conclusion, the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting everyone as individuals and as a society at present and long-term. It affects not just physical health but also mental health, economy, and social life. Hopefully, like other disasters, we will pass through this together and learn how to better prepare ourselves.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Adalja AA, Toner E, Inglesby TV. Priorities for the US health community responding to COVID-19. JAMA 2020;323:1343-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
Park JS, Lee EH, Park NR, Choi YH. Mental health of nurses working at a government-designated hospital during a MERS-CoV outbreak: A cross-sectional study. Arch Psychiatr Nurs 2018;32:2-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Cohan CL, Cole SW. Life course transitions and natural disaster: Marriage, birth, and divorce following Hurricane Hugo. J Fam Psychol 2002;16:14-25.  Back to cited text no. 3
Ćosić K, Popović S, Šarlija M, Kesedžić I. Impact of human disasters and COVID-19 pandemic on mental health: Potential of digital psychiatry. Psychiatr Danub 2020;32:25-31.  Back to cited text no. 4
Kavoor AR, Chakravarthy K, John T. Remote consultations in the era of COVID-19 pandemic: Preliminary experience in a regional Australian public acute mental health care setting. Asian J Psychiatr 2020;51:102074.  Back to cited text no. 5
Mahmoud H, Vogt EL, Dahdouh R, Raymond ML. Using continuous quality improvement to design and implement a telepsychiatry program in rural Illinois. Psychiatr Serv 2020;(online ahead of print): appips201900231. DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.201900231.  Back to cited text no. 6


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