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Is the Worst Yet to Come?

By Sambridhi Shrestha

Three months back nobody would’ve thought that this global pandemic would last this long. It is hard to digest that it may extend for a few more months or that we are in need of a vaccine to cure this virus which has pulled down the almighty human being. Let’s assume that a brilliant scientist develops the formula to cure this pandemic… then what?

The majority of the world’s population might start where they left off but the rest of the population will be back to square one. The International Labor Organization (ILO) said that some 1.6 billion people living in the informal economy or nearly half of the global workforce could see their livelihoods ruined because of the continued decrease in working hours triggered by lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19.

We are well aware that the economy stands at a halt, however the consequences will have a much larger magnitude and echo much longer than we expect.  World history is evident that global economic downfall or recession is one of the triggers that spikes mental health issues. In the Great Recession (December 2017- June 2009) the global GDP declined to -5.1% and global unemployment stroked to 10%. The Great Recession gave birth to the Great Depression. In a study, Forbes and Robert F. Krueger looked at the signs of depression, anxiety, and panic disorder in the participants and their signs of alcohol and drug use. Participants also indicated in the 2012-2013 wave that they had a range of recession-related impacts, including financial impacts, job-related impacts, and housing impacts.

The United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) released a report in April forecasting that this pandemic is likely to decrease global working hours by almost 7% in the coming months and a dramatic decline of 195 million full-time workers.  As of May 15, 2020, the US government has announced that nearly 36 million people had reported jobless after companies were shut down and reduced their workforce and/or working hours. India, one of the major economies of the Asian continent has faced a similar hardship. In a digital survey conducted in 25 major cities of India with the coverage of 1,124 companies spanning 11 industrial sectors between May 1-10, 2020, 73% planned to reduce the wage rates 57%  planning on a temporary layoff while 21% headed to permanent layoff.

The figures stated above are extremely alarming and it’s understood that we will face a global recession, leading to a spike in mental health issues. Words like depression and anxiety will emerge more frequently.

People who are already dealing with anxiety might have to deal with severe anxiety attacks. The anxiety over loss of work, the anxiety of restriction, anxiety of self-insufficiency, anxiety of the virus. “Anxiety” is one word but it can create hundreds of ripple effects. It can pull a completely sound person to dig their own grave.

Small businesses or ordinary people who have compromised their wants and saved a small sum of money to invest hoping that they will get a fair return might be on the verge of shutting down.  According to a recent study from Main Street America, 7.5 million small businesses will shut down permanently if market disruption caused by Covid-19 continues to unabated. This scenario might have a hostile effect of increasing suicidal rates or upsurge the use of alcohol or drugs. Depression could be the next chronic illness hindering the growth of the human race.

While some countries are encountering major losses others are trying to mitigate the damage. The Swiss Federal Council is offering rapid access to credit facilities to bridge liquidity shortfalls. According to the Financial Times, the country has distributed emergency loans to over 76,000 small businesses, which is substantially more than other European countries.

Lucky are those who have a good coping mechanism and have higher tolerance to the change after this dramatic show is over while others feel the hardship like an anchor on their feet.    

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