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  • Ananya Kataruka

How misinformation on the pandemic affects your mental health.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the plethora of information available on it has been quite overwhelming. People, scared and anxious, have no choice but to depend on news outlets and social media for any knowledge and updates on the virus. Due to this, there has been an overabundance of not only relevant information but also falsified and fallacious information which includes conspiracy theories, home remedies and preventative measures that are not evidence-based. The WHO (World Health Organisation) has coined this rapid spread of misinformation as an “infodemic” and has stated that it complicates the pandemic even more.

Believing this false information can lead to serious consequences not only on one’s physical health but on one’s mental health as well. In Iran, hundreds of people died after drinking methanol alcohol (commonly known as hand sanitiser), when it was circulated on social media that others were cured of coronavirus after drinking it. This only goes to show how much stress and anxiety these people were under, to have believed such an absurd statement. Their fear and paranoia caused them to commit an act of desperation, which ultimately led to their deaths.

Social media is the leading cause for increasing the levels of panic and anxiety in individuals,  worsening the condition of people already suffering from mental illnesses and anxiety disorders.

Since the beginning of the lockdown imposed last year, people have been mainly homebound - either working or studying from home. During this time, the main source of entertainment and news for millions of people has been their social media platforms. This raises a variety of issues as social media can become both addictive and toxic, all too quickly. Too much content consumption can lead to mood modifications, panic attacks and even sleeplessness, which is proven to affect the mental and physical well being of any person.

The news that comes in every day is largely negative in nature. Every day people are reminded of the dark world that they live in, which seems like something straight out of a dystopian novel. This can be triggering and induce a feeling of depression, paranoia and perturbation in many people, which can cause psychological problems aplenty.

So the question arises - what can people do to safeguard their mental health at a time like this? First and foremost, limit your screen time on social media, do not believe all the messages floating around in your WhatsApp groups without verifying them so that you do not become agitated. Try to take some time out for yourself and do something that you enjoy. If you do want to consume news, make sure that you only follow substantiated and verified outlets. Take a moment to think about the content that you’re absorbing and only then decide if it's trustworthy.

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