The COVID-19 pandemic and all the resulting problems of its creation, including a health crisis, access to care, job loss, and financial struggles, have negatively impacted many people’s mental health. What this pandemic has exposed is the overwhelming number of people who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues and the lack of support for them in ordinary times. Now, with the pandemic, the rise of cases of reported depression, anxiety, malaise, and stress has exposed even further issues that need to be addressed on a global scale.
Experts expect that the continuing crisis and losses will lead to exasperated mental health issues in otherwise healthy individuals. The closure of schools, shelter-in-place, and social isolation measures to decrease the spread of COVID-19, though necessary, are linked to an increase of distress for countless people in the United States and around the globe.
For those on the frontline from healthcare workers to maintenance crews, sanitation workers, law enforcement, firefighters, grocery store employees, restaurant employees, and mail carriers, burnout, stress, and anxiety have increased exponentially. Working with or around people who either or could potentially have the virus causes a stress most of us will never know or fully understand.
Older adults are at specific risk of suffering increased mental health issues like depression because, in our efforts to protect them, we (society) have inadvertently left them with no support. Our attempts to stop the spread have increased their vulnerability to mental health decline. Teens and young children who’ve been pulled from school, kept from friends and family in isolation at home, or have been separated from parents who are frontline workers for prolonged periods are of particular concern, because of the loss of social connections. They may suffer from depression, anxiety, or phantom illnesses that are manifestations of their emotional unrest.
If you or someone you know is struggling emotionally, there are some things you can do to help ease the burden or minimize your anxiety. First, contact your healthcare provider to discuss what you’re struggling with and together come up with a safe plan to ease the strain and help you moving forward. In addition to support from your physician, there are several online resources and virtual counseling sessions. If neither of those are an option you can pursue, or you’d prefer other methods, there are things you can do at no cost to you like calling a friend or a trusted confidant, hosting a virtual meeting through platforms like Zoom with friends and family, exercising daily to increase endorphins and lift your spirits, prayer, meditation, journaling, doing something safe that you enjoy. The bottom line is there are options. You are not in this alone.