Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our mental health and changed people’s lives around the world. Since the first outbreak in 2019, stress, worry and fear have become common side effects of the virus. Even with mass vaccinations, our mental health has suffered and will continue to be at risk if we don’t acknowledge and heal in the face of all that has happened. Know that increasing mental health issues are preventable with the right steps.
3 keys to help and prevent mental health struggles
1. Know you’re not alone
First, know you’re not alone, and we need help. That help starts in the community. Despite social distancing, there are ways to help others. Check-in with your neighbors on the phone, text the friend you haven’t spoken to in months or the second cousins you haven’t seen in years. This is because we are stronger together.
Do you remember when the community in Naples, Italy came out onto their balconies to sing together? They created joy and strength by being there for one another.
Photo: Manuel Peris Tirado on Unsplash
2. Understand the effects of Covid-19 –– and know there is hope
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (according to U.S. data) shared that between January to June 2020 only 11% of people reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. While in December of 2020, that number rose to 42%. Reports also show that people who have COVID-19 are more likely to develop depression, anxiety and dementia within three months of being diagnosed.
The increase in numbers and distress that people are experiencing are stemming from the lack of social interaction and increase in time spent alone indoors. With the inability to have face-to-face interactions in an office, even mental health professionals are providing telehealth therapy appointments to aid the depression, anxiety and other mental health issues people are experiencing.
But know the light within this darkness will begin to shine as the COVID-19 cases begin to drop and vaccinations continue to roll out. In the meantime, seek out that communal support discussed earlier.
Take deep breaths, make virtual dates with family and friends, go for socially distanced walks, follow a healthy diet and seek help if you feel unsafe or overwhelmed.
3. Be aware of your health care workers’ mental health too
According to Mental Health America, “93% of health care workers were experiencing stress, 86% reported experiencing anxiety, 77% reported frustration, 76% reported exhaustion burnout and 75% said they were overwhelmed.” These numbers don’t include the emotional exhaustion, sleep trouble, physical exhaustion, work-related dread and changes in appetite that are also associated with depression.
Photo: Thirdman from Pexels
Hospitals are also overfilled, including the psychiatric wing. Those who are receiving the help they need are being put at risk as most hospitals don’t have the room to isolate every patient while they are receiving treatment. Suicide hotlines across the country are seeing severe spikes due to COVID-19 concerns, including in Montana, Mississippi and California, along with other states.
Be aware of this as you interact with your health care professionals. They may be struggling as well, so spread your positive energy to their spaces when you can.
With these three keys to hope at the forefront of your mind, a shift can begin to occur. However, if you or someone you know is experiencing severe symptoms, reach out to your mental health professionals for immediate help.
There is hope within this darkness. Optimism isn’t temporarily closed.
By Marianna Poletti Reyes
Featured Photo: Nick Bolton