The past year has been incredibly difficult for many people. The toll it has taken on some individuals and groups has been more apparent, while some people may be affected in a less obvious way. As we reflect on the past year, it’s important we are aware of the effects of the pandemic on our mental health. Read on for various mental health challenges that have arisen and what kind of support is available to address these issues.
Anxiety and depression
People of all ages and walks of life have seen an increase in anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic, including minorities, essential workers, young adults, and mothers. Individuals with poor health and chronic illness have struggled with an increase in depression and anxiety. There has also been a rise of agoraphobia, or fear of public or crowded places.
Many studies point to an increase in depression across the board as well. One study showed a significant rise in levels of clinical depression in young people over the pandemic, including more suicidal thoughts. This could be due to loss of income, closures of universities, and uncertainty over the future. Essential workers also shown an increase in depression and suicidal thoughts. Adults overall have reported more suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts since the start of the pandemic. Poor sleep has also been widely reported, which may be exasperating declines in mental health.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.
Grief and emotional exhaustion
Many people have experienced grief and loss over the past year. Grief could be due to death of friends or family, loss of a job, loss of your health, or another loss. Black people are more likely than white people to know someone who has died or been hospitalized. Asian Americans have experience emotional exhaustion due to increased racism since the start of the pandemic. Many healthcare workers are at an increased risk for PTSD due to emotional exhaustion, loss of patients, and exposure to trauma.
Substance use has increased due to an increased need for coping skills and due to ease of access while many individuals are in lockdown at home. Essential workers in particular showed an increase in substance use since the start of the pandemic. Overdose drug deaths increased significantly in the spring of 2020, during the beginning of lockdowns.
Need help with substance use disorder or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
Throughout the family
Many children and their parents have experienced poor mental health due to school closures and lack of childcare. About half of mothers reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, and are more likely than fathers to report a decline in mental health. Women in general have seen a significant decline in mental health and increase in loneliness. One in three teens meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder, and almost half of teens show symptoms of declining mental health since the start of the pandemic. Again, female adolescents are experiencing worse anxiety than males.
Folks in older generations have struggled with mental health throughout the pandemic, in addition to increased physical vulnerability. Those living alone have reported feeling lonelier than those living with a partner, family, or roommates. Isolation can lead to anxiety, distress, and increased irritability in older people.
Many factors like income, education, domestic violence, racism, employment, and more can exacerbate these mental health issues. There is a help available if you are suffering or struggling. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to see what options you have. This may include therapy over telehealth or in-person, medication, art therapy, support groups, or diet and lifestyle changes.
Ways to improve pandemic related mental health challenges can include taking news and social media breaks, practicing basic safety and hygiene, prioritizing sleep, trying to stay connected to loved ones, and utilizing healthy coping skills like mindfulness and exercise. For parents of teens, one in four parents have sought help for their child and 75% of them saw positive results. This past year has been difficult. Seek help and support today.
Are you looking for more support for your child or yourself? Please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you.
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.