More than half of respondents are suffering from the Corona blue, and their symptoms and cause they think are like this.
/Information Sources by the Dongguk Post (In-house Survey, 428 answered)
“I want to go outside, but I cannot due to the Coronavirus……” These days, there are many neologisms that have been coined after the COVID-19 situation, which has lots of influence on our lives. “Untact,” “Covidiot,” and “Post Corona” are the examples. Among them, one term is registered on the National Center for Mental Health as a mental illness. It is “Corona blue,” which is a mental illness similar to depression, and it is caused by COVID-19. What exactly is the Corona blue and what is causing this gloomy status?
The Corona blue is literally a blue feeling caused by Coronavirus
The Corona blue is a newly coined term that combines “Corona” and “blue,” and it is a status of being depressed or lethargic caused by great changes in daily life due to the spread of COVID-19. The Corona blue has begun to appear as concerns about the risk of infection grow and restrictions on daily life increase due to the enforced social distancing. Wrong information about COVID-19 or social and economic difficulties also can be causes of the Corona blue. Kim Ji-yong, a psychiatrist and Youtuber of the channel “Brainrich,” said, “The situation, which has become socially and economically unstable, creates depression and anxiety. In this chronic anxiety, Serotonin, a matter that controls anxiety in our brains, is consumed. Lack of Serotonin itself causes depression and anxiety.” He also added, “COVID-19 reduces the amount of exposed time on sunlight and exercise, which also lowers the amount of Serotonin.”
People suffering from the Corona blue may feel heavy and be lethargic since they cannot do outdoor activities they used to or want to do. Other than these, there are symptoms that relate to concerns about COVID-19. For example, they have anxiety about whether they are infected with COVID-19, even if they experience mild symptoms of a cold such as coughing and a sore throat, which are also known to be symptoms of COVID-19. They also have an excessive obsession with information and news related to infectious diseases, or increased vigilance towards people around them.
Unlike normal depression, however, it can be difficult to overcome the Corona blue because no one can be sure when the Novel Coronavirus will come to an end. It is also difficult to ask others for help due to the social distancing and the possibility that others may have been suffered.
Everyone could be under the influence of the Corona blue
Everyone could get a COVID-19 confirmation, and the same goes for the Corona blue. However, there are some kinds of people who are especially more vulnerable to the Corona blue. The first case is the elderly. Young people usually use the Internet, such as Social Network Services (SNS), to find ways to overcome the Corona blue, while most elderly people are not familiar with using the devices, making it difficult for them to find ways to overcome it. Moreover, since it is hard to go outside nowadays, they stay at home feeling isolated.
Young people are no exception to becoming patients of the Corona blue. Affected by the economic crisis, companies are lowering their employment rates and carrying out layoffs, which means job seekers and people laid off could be in a more difficult situation. Single-person households are also vulnerable to the Corona blue since there is no one to communicate with at home. Yet, it is hard to go out and meet friends, as well.
Other than these, among young people, it is especially women who suffer from the Corona blue, and their numbers are increasing rapidly. This is because single-person households of women working as non-regular workers are easily affected by the economic crisis. In addition, COVID-19 has a great impact on the face-to-face service industry, where a large number of female workers work, causing a great deal of damage to them.
As such, in Korea, there are lots of people who are prone to suffer from the Corona blue. However, as previously mentioned, everyone could complain of the Corona blue. There are lots of university students who are suffering from it. Psychiatrist Kim said, “Job market has turned pessimistic as the domestic and international economies have stagnated overall. In this situation, it is natural for university students to expect both the present and the future dimly.” In effect, according to an in-house survey of college students in their 20s (428 answered), about 60 percent of people think that they are complaining of the Corona blue. Almost all of them said they felt lethargic and stuffy and even some respondents said that they felt suicidal. The biggest cause of the Corona blue, they thought, was that they could not engage in outdoor activities, followed by uncertainty of when COVID-19 ends and concerns that they might get infected.
Kwak Ji-ho, a student of Department of Design of Kyungdong University, responded that she is suffering from the Corona blue. She said, “I realized that I am complaining of the Corona blue when I have to wear a face mask for a long time and when my leisure life is limited or when symptoms of COVID-19 appear. When that happens, I feel a lot of (negative) emotions such as lack of will, anxiety, fear, and vigilance.” Lee (24, male), a students of Seoul National University of Science and Technology, also responded that he is complaining of the Corona blue. He said, “I am currently a public service personnel and will be discharged next year from military service. After that, I will start preparing for employment in earnest, but since there is no guarantee about the economic recovery after the COVID-19 end, I feel lethargic and want to do nothing. Also, I think my lethargy doubled since I cannot go outside to relieve stress.” He also added, “Even if I follow the quarantine rules, I feel like it is meaningless since others do not follow them. So I lose strength and become more pessimistic.”
The Corona blue could lead to suicide
Why is the Corona blue dangerous? Some people suffering from the Corona blue choose the nuclear option. According to the Journal of Korean medical science, some confirmed cases of COVID-19 complained of severe psychological symptoms such as depression, insomnia or thinking of killing themselves after receiving isolated treatment in the negative pressure room. Also, some of them feel guilty about roaming around in a state of infection and suffer from stigma and criticism.
Even those who are not confirmed cases also suffer from the Corona blue. The National Center for Disaster Trauma said that the number of COVID-19-related psychological counseling cases tallied until March was about 8,000 for confirmed cases and their families, while 50 thousand for general counseling (people not infected with COVID-19 including self-quarantine). However, in July, the number surged to 19,187 and 315,526, respectively. Besides, the number of suicide prevention counseling calls reached 118,006 by August, three times higher than 48,656 in the same period last year. Not all of these are due to COVID-19, but many of them were affected. As the situation became serious like this, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun even emphasized the prevention of psychological stress, anxiety, and depression at the second suicide prevention policy committee.
According to experts, the reason people take drastic options is that isolation combines with existing depression. At the beginning of the COVID-19 situation, social distancing reduced face-to-face activities which accompany conflicts, so the suicide rate decreased, but it soon increased again due to depression. Psychiatrist Kim said, “The key feeling of depression and suicide is hopelessness. It is more dangerous when they cannot be sure when this situation is going to end. On the other hand, what is important in preventing suicide is the sense of solidarity between people.” He added, “However, the connection with people continues to be disconnected, increasing the risk of suicide in many ways.”
In some cases, domestic discords arising from the prolonged time living in the house lead to drastic options. In particular, the suicide rate of men in the first half of the year decreased by 6.1 percent, while that of women increased 7.1 percent from the same period last year.
In addition to the suicide rate, there is a risk that the vicious cycle is repeated. People who complain about the Corona blue keep their distance from society, so they cannot relieve stress or get face-to-face treatment, which weakens social connectedness, and makes depression worse. What is more, depression can also affect the people around them.
People all over the world are experiencing psychological problems
Other countries are also experiencing the Corona blue as the confirmed cases of COVID-19 are showing up worldwide. According to the household pulse survey, conducted by the US Census Bureau (USCB) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), there was a figure that one out of three Americans feel depression and anxiousness. Steve Bing, who was a movie director and a billionaire, jumped from his 27th-floor apartment. It is said that he was suffering from depression due to the prolonged blockade and house isolation caused by the COVID-19 situation. According to the Statistics Canada, the figure of people experiencing mental health problems in 2019 was 8.1 percent, but the figure has rapidly increased up to 60 percent after COVID-19 occurred. In the case of Thailand, there were concerns that the number of people who committed suicide after suffering from economic recession could be higher than the death toll from COVID-19. In March, 38 people attempted suicide due to the lockdown and unemployment, and 28 of them died.
Europe also has concerns about psychological depression since the economic loss caused by COVID-19 is serious. In case of Germany and the United Kingdom, people who were dissatisfied with restrictions caused by the long-term COVID-19 situation turned violent and attacked the police. People are now even undergoing an emotion such as extreme anger, which is called the Corona red.
People should try to get over Corona blue together.
/Illustrated by Lee Jae-eun
How can we overcome the Corona blue?
To overcome the Corona blue, there are measures that can be practiced at the social and governmental level and the individual level. At the social and governmental level, the Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to provide services to reinforce psychological distress prevention. The COVID-19 mind support group was created to cope with the side effects from the amplification of psychological anxiety, such as increased fear, and hateful behaviors. The main activities of them are providing content to stabilize the mental state, identifying fake news, and providing customized information to relieve citizens’ fear. The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the COVID-19 mind support group are also carrying a measure forward to reduce citizens’ anxiety by guiding them to free Corona-related counseling agencies. Moreover, the COVID-19 mind support group developed a gatekeeper training program to prevent suicide with the Seoul Suicide Prevention center. Park Ji-hye, a counselor and representative of link counseling center, said, “As COVID-19 prolongs, experiencing anxiety, depression, and stress is a natural response. However, if such psychological pain is too strong to handle alone, it is better to get help from a professional institution immediately.”
Yeongdong Senior Welfare Centers at Chungcheongbuk-do Province has provided bean sprouts kits, which can be easily cultivated at home, to about 460 elderly people who use the customized care service in the region. As social distancing is emphasized in the aftermath of COVID-19, more elderly complained of isolation and depression, which was the motivation behind providing the kits. The elderly who received the kit could reduce boredom through the process of growing bean sprouts and gain emotional stability and vitality in their daily lives.
Various content for cultural life is also being provided to reduce the boredom and depression of citizens. The Seoul Metropolitan Government launched a project named “Munhwaro Todaktodak” to console citizens who are tired of the prolonged COVID-19 situation with culture and arts, and to offer opportunities of artistic activities for performance artists and rookie artists who have been affected directly by infectious diseases.
Due to the influence of COVID-19, which became serious again in August, many exhibition halls have decided to close temporarily. At the same time, non-face-to-face online exhibitions using VR technology are being held to soothe the boredom of those who wanted to visit the exhibition. Park Min-seo, a resident of Gyeonggi-do, said, “At first, it felt hard to stay at home without doing anything. However, now, I think positively because I can relieve my boredom a lot as various cultural life such as concerts and musicals are shown online.”
Individual efforts are also needed to overcome the Corona blue
Besides the efforts at the social and government levels to surmount the Corona blue, personal efforts are also necessary. Counselor Park said, “Preventive practices such as washing hands frequently and not visiting crowded places are the most important rules in responding to infectious diseases. Likewise, personal practice of managing stress and taking care of oneself every day can be considered the most preemptive and important approach for psychological distress prevention.”
To overcome the Corona blue, counselor Park suggested several ways. She said, “First, to get over the Corona blue, it is important to accept our feelings. It is necessary to look into, acknowledge, and console various emotions such as anxiety, depression, and lethargy caused by COVID-19. Even in the same environment, the intensity of each individual’s feeling and pain may be different. However, everyone goes through those feelings. So, it is the basis of mindfulness to recognize and pat one’s feelings rather than just to reprimand yourself for being unusual. Second, people should try to maintain their daily routines. Specifically, trying to keep daily balance through healthy meals, adequate sleep, rest, and exercise can help reduce stress. In limited situations, think about the everyday life you can enjoy and put it into action. Walking, training in home, driving, and so on can be helpful. Also, when you feel stress, it is better to share your feelings with someone whom you can experience a sense of connection with.”
According to the National Center for Disaster Trauma, concentrating on reliable information is also useful to keep one’s mind healthy. In stressful situations, people tend to collect as much information as possible to relieve their anxiety. However, the wrong information can create fear and anxiety, adding more stress and hindering correct judgments. Therefore, accepting information from official agencies or reliable sources can help reduce distorted anxiety.
Using meditation applications or psychological support applications, which can control unstable emotions, is a way to sustain healthy mind. For example, “Maseongui Todaktodak” is a mind growth program application aimed at reducing depression and controlling emotions by correcting negative thinking. Also, “Kokkiri” is an application that provides healing content such as “meditation with Haemin Sunim” through a non-face-to-face approach for people who are experiencing lethargy and loneliness. About meditation, Haemin Sunim said, “Meditation can save us from the thoughts and emotions that come up from our minds. Also, it helps to turn negative thoughts into positive ones, and lets us feel free from them by realizing that such thoughts or feeling have been raised. Therefore, meditation can be helpful for people who are undergoing hard times. I think the direction that Kokkiri application pursues is to make meditation easily be done by anyone in their daily lives.”
Currently, people all over the world are having a tough year due to COVID-19. Many are experiencing the Corona blue as the unstable situation is prolonged, and the end of this infectious disease cannot be guaranteed. At the September 9th regular press briefing, Jeong Eun-kyeong, Director of the Centers for Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) mentioned that we are living in a world “with COVID-19 rage.” She also emphasized the need for psychological distress prevention to encourage each other as the number of people complaining of mental difficulties in responding to COVID-19 has increased. Now, it is time for us to overcome the crisis by adapting to the new environment while relying on each other.
Lee Da-young, Lee Jae-eun firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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