Masks. Shutdowns. Rising cases.
It’s been eight months since we were all first impacted by the novel coronavirus. It’s been a struggle for many. How are you doing? How are you feeling lately? Are you having a hard time? Do you feel lost, down or apathetic to life lately?
We understand. We and many others are right along with you.
Since March, there’s been a rise in cases concerning mental health conditions. Most specifically, anxiety and depression. With that, many of us find ourselves in a situation where we’re having a difficult time managing our mental health while also trying to protect our physical health.
Throughout this article, we’re going to explore mental health in this new unknown age of COVID-19. The purpose of this piece is to try to have a better understanding of how a tumultuous time can stir up complex complications.
Complications Complicate Coronavirus
According to the World Health Organization, the United States officially reported their first case of the novel Coronavirus on January 21, 2020. ¹ Since then we have seen a rise of over 200,000 cases and a prevalence of mental health complications.
There could be many reasons why there has been a notable rise in cases of mental health issues or crisis, from the lockdown to the sheer fact that we are experiencing a “new normal” which we have never experienced on a scale such like this before.
The Issues That Might Arise
With panic comes paranoia and that can be exacerbated when a person has a history of anxiety or a panic-related disorder like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is concerning especially in pandemics because the rate of generalized paranoia is already at an all time high – so, those already struggling from a mental illness suffer twice as much during times like these.
Distressing times always causes heightened levels of anxiety even with mentally healthy individuals, but for those who have a history with suffering from an anxiety disorder, times like these are even more of a nightmare. According to the Associate Press, calls from March through July of 2020 to the U.S. government-funded Disaster Distress Helpline, which offers counseling and emotional support, surged 335% from the same period last year. ²
The most important factor to realize is that most of these cases are coming from our most vulnerable portions of our society. A majority of this spike in cases of anxiety came from the outbreak of Coronavirus in the US.
Depression usually affects over 6% of Americans, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, that rate has skyrocketed to a level that hasn’t been seen in quite some time. There have been efforts in recent years to bring awareness to large, looming mental health disorders that affect large swatches of the population.
And what we have seen since the pandemic is that these efforts accelerated and emboldened not only by the usual advocacy groups but also by everyday, normal Americans on social media platforms. This is promising and progressive and, yet, seemingly understandable as more and more people are finding themselves fighting against a force that isn’t physical and isn’t something that can be easily defined or diagnosable.
Just looking over the last year of how depression and depression-related searches on Google Trends, it’s easy to see that it has risen steadily from March to September of this year, just after the outbreak of COVID-19. ³ This surge in social media awareness to this issue has helped in identifying cases of depression in those that might otherwise not have taken the time to adequately treat their underlying issue.
That all being said, it’s still good to understand the symptoms and signs that may indicate a case of depression and help those who might be fearing that suffer from the disorder. Depression is typically diagnosable after a patient suffers a low period that extends past two weeks (14 days) and lasts up to months or years.
This ‘low period’ is usually includes a lack of energy, reduction in interest in favorable activities and an unshakable feeling of sadness. Diagnosis requires an evaluation from a mental health professional and treatment usually consists of antidepressants like Prozac or Elavil and consistent, longterm talk therapy sessions with a licensed psychologist.
Substance abuse is characterized by a person who consistently indulges in ingesting a substance on a daily basis and through that dependence on the substance, their personal and professional obligations fall by the wayside. ⁴
Addiction skyrocketed after the outbreak of coronavirus in the US. Although mainly disguised under fragile façade of the humorous societal habit of ‘day-drinking’ during the lockdowns to try and contain the spread of the virus – substance abuse is a serious affliction, affecting 14.4 million adults in the country. ⁵
There are options for those that find themselves addicted to a dependence on a certain substance through either internal or usually external intervention and treatment through talk therapy and stopping the indulgence through cutting dependency.
Suicidal Thoughts & Actions
The rate of suicide since the pandemic started has seen a concerning rise as well. Suicidal ideation and acts of suicide are most common in young adults, ranging from 18 to 25 years of age, and the majority of these cases were young men. ⁶
The remaining sensitive groups affected by this rise in suicidal thoughts and actions were minorities and among those considered essential workers who have been working long, tiresome hours throughout pandemic. The stress, health, and financial hardships that came along with the fallout of this pandemic have accumulated to a burgeoning crisis of those of our hardest working and hardest hit communities taking their lives due to fear and frustration.
Finding Answers & Relief
So. now that we know about the issues that have arisen in the times that we are living through, the question remains is what now? How do we, as people suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic, find some sort of relief from this constant nightmare?
It’s a loaded question in a way that’s very difficult to answer due to the fact that there is no real straightforward solution. The fact is is that relief will have to come from you and will vary from person-to-person, case-to-case.
However, one thing that connects all cases together and it’s actually the first step to relief and recovery. That first step is asking for help.
Asking for help or reaching out for assistance is seen as the most vital step in getting treatment for a mental illness. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of stigma that’s still attached to mental health and those suffering from disorders that not only hinder their day-to-day lives but also affect their relationships and friendships with loved ones.
It’s so important to have a foundation of openness and support that those who are suffering from mental health issues can lean on in times of strife and difficulty.
Men & Mental Health: A Worrying Predicament
One of the more concerning issues when it comes to reporting cases of mental health issues comes down to men and their willingness to admit that they may be suffering. When we look at statistics and figures, it shows an alarming lack of understanding and ability to reach out for help. Let’s break it down.
Just looking at sheer numerical figures, the disparity between how women and men deal and treat mental health is quite staggering. The average male population in the United States is over 150 million and the rate of those affected by just depression each year tops out at over 6 million. That’s over 9% of the male US population! ⁷
Matching those figures, with the fact that men are more likely to develop alcohol and drug dependency and less likely to admit that they may have an issue with substance abuse, can exacerbate an undisclosed mental illness. ⁸
And when we remind ourselves that suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for men in the US and the fact that men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, there is a serious need for a better handling of mental health for men. With issues like stigma, societal and gender norms, and the downplaying of symptoms that are more common with men than women when it comes to admitting that they are experiencing mental health issues. ⁹ That is why it’s imperative that we reach out to our male population for assistance and support.
So, how can we slow down this scary situation? Well, mental health professionals are doing their very best to become advocates for mental health outreach by informing the public of this issue. These individuals urge those that might be suffering to reach out themselves to a trusted medical or mental health professional.
However, that’s not always an option for some due to health coverage issues to being self conscious about admitting that they might have an issue they need help with. So, what happens to those that cannot bring themselves to a doctor or unable to reach out due to possible financial issues?
Thankfully, there are a definitive resources for those that are affected by these afflictions or know someone who might be. Resources such as hotlines, SMS text line, and web chats have become instant options for guidance and in some cases, even intervention. These resources are usually run by nonprofits or governmental organizations that guarantee anonymity and practical solutions for suicidal ideations.
Below we are going to list some resources that we recommend if you or someone you know are currently dealing with a mental health crisis or thoughts of suicide:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available 24/7 for those currently dealing with a crisis. You can reach out to the Lifeline through its toll-free number at (800)-273-8255 and learn more about the service on their website.
- The Trevor Project is a nonprofit outreach center for LGBTQ youth who are dealing with difficulties and have options for help through their helpline, their website or through SMS text messaging.
- The Crisis Text Line is a free test line that helps with those experiencing a mental health crisis which as of publishing of this article include depression, bullying, self-harm, anxiety, and most recently concerns over COVID-19. You can text 741741 from anywhere in the US or message them on their website or through Facebook to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. Crisis Text Line trains volunteers to support people in crisis and are available 24/7.
Coronavirus has arrived. There is no way to escape it. Now we must learn to not only merely exist in this time but thrive in it. This is a period of history unlike anything else and it’s imperative that we, as human beings, take care of not only one another but ourselves as well. This could be a time for change, for renewal and rebirth but only if we allow it to be.
The best way to maintain momentum in times like these to check in with yourselves and your loved ones to truly find out how you are feeling and most importantly, why you might be feeling the way you do.
Still have questions concerning how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected mental health?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further advice to offer – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you!
¹ World Health Organization: “COVID-19 Timeline”
⁴ CDC Morbidity & Mortality Report: “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States”
⁵ Kaiser Family Foundation: “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use”
⁶ National Institute of Mental Health: “Suicide”
⁷ American Psychological Association: “By The Numbers – Men & Depression”
⁸ National Institute of Mental Health: “The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on substance use”
⁹ Mental Health America Foundation: “Mental Health For Men – A Statistical Infographic”