It’s been more than a year now of unprecedented living: confinement, layoffs and financial hardships, loneliness, and news of suffering and death. People are at least upset, and at worst depressed and anxious. Some are tense, scared, while others are discouraged. What will become of our mental wellness after the pandemic?
This pandemic is shaping up to be a hydra-headed (or a diverse and multifaceted) problem. Even after winning the physical war with vaccines, there could be a psychological fallout.
Three elements that must be taken into account today:
- the transmission of the virus, to be blocked as a priority,
- the economic consequences,
- and the impact on our mental health.
COVID 19 and Mental Health
Recent data show that in patients and caregivers who experienced quarantine and isolation in various settings, we find a high prevalence of symptoms of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, insomnia, and more.
Likewise, in a review of the psychosocial impact of quarantine measures during severe coronavirus epidemics before COVID-19, researchers found that these measures are consistently associated with depressive symptoms, anxiety, anger, stress, and post-traumatic stress.
Revised access to education
The crisis has imposed distance learning on so many. The measures aimed at maintaining pedagogical (teaching) continuity during the first confinement exposed the digital divide, i.e., the inequalities in access to IT tools including internet connections. Families have been struggling and some have been unable to home school. The dropout related to the pandemic is noticeably growing in higher education (universities, colleges, and the like).
A rise in poverty
The crisis accentuates social vulnerabilities and tilts households into poverty and lack. Despite measures such as the relief package, 2020 data shows that the monthly poverty rate hit an all-time high of 17.3 % in August. Many forgo healthcare or necessities for financial reasons. The crisis makes it difficult to obtain a first job or an internship and increases youth unemployment.
These and other pandemic-related effects have contributed to the doubling of depressive states, particularly in young people, inactive individuals, and those in dire financial straits.
Many are on the verge of moderate to severe disorders including, anxiety and depression. Due to the stress and anxiety, some might have progressed in drinking more heavily or relapsed during their sobriety. Suicides, self-harm, domestic abuse, and child abuse are also on the rise.
What's the CDC saying?
I pulled the next paragraph from the CDC website.
During June 24–30, 2020, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19. Younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use and elevated suicidal ideation.
And this chart helps clarify different areas where the pandemic was a problem early on, but we are now 6-7 months past this data findings and so are things better or worse now? Beyond the pandemic alone, we have not address the political environment at all which is causing a snowball effect with the pandemic issues in my opinion (maybe I can find data on this for another article).
Scientific American addressed How Common Mental Health Issues may be, long Before the Pandemic.
In the article Mental Illness Is Far More Common Than We Knew, the Scientific American magazine addressing how common mental health issues were in regular times and this was long before the perfect storm of pandemic chaos hit. So why is this conversation not more common? Mostly fear of being seen as crazy and the stigma associated with being crazy. Sadly though this clear avoidance is very harmful for something that for many can be addressed and dealt with.
The subhead of this article states… “New research suggests that nearly everyone will develop a psychological disorder at some point in their life—but for most, it’s temporary“. Again, if this is accurate why do we fear the stigma associated with this stuff? Why are we not seeking help before things get desperate? Why do we fall back on drinking, drugs, sex, binge watching and so many other potentially unhealthy practices?
Here are a few thoughts from the article…
“New research, from our laboratory and from others around the world, however, suggests mental illnesses are so common that almost everyone will develop at least one diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their life. Most of these people will never receive treatment, and their relationships, job performance and life satisfaction will likely suffer.”
“Epidemiologists have long known that at any given time, roughly 20 to 25 percent of the population suffers from a mental illness, which means they experience psychological distress severe enough to impair functioning at work, at school or in their relationships.”
YIKES!! 20 to 25% of us in normal times could be struggling with mental health issues and they will harm our work, school, and relationships. This is important stuff and we need to be discussing this stuff. If you love people and/or love yourself, then this has to become a part of your awareness and regular thoughts or normal conversations because this stuff is happening to 1 in 4 people we know.
Put your mental health first.
Even people with no mental health diagnosis have shown significant susceptibility to these pandemic-related stressors. This highlights the need to adopt healthy habits and patterns in life during this crisis. Establish a routine, make time for your loved ones, no matter how far away you are, and take care of your physical health!
My Own Journey…
Some of you may know a bit of my journey and others will not. 8-years ago I had life events, business events, business relationship issues with partners, and my car stolen as I almost caught the guy in the act. Let’s just say, the world felt like it was crumbling out from under me. This pushed me into a 2-year deep dark depression. This is something I never experienced before. It was bad! I mean REALLY bad!
At the time, I didn’t know it was depression, I may have assumed it was burn out and anger based on the car deal and the partner screwing me over. Because of that, I had no way to deal with all these things hitting at once. I’ve seen bad times before and am pretty resilient, but this stuff pushed me in an area I didn’t know how to get out. I tried everything I knew.
I asked for help. My family had no idea what this was or how to help me which made things worse as I felt more and more isolated even when seeking help.
The medical situation was equally as bad. I struggled finding a therapist through my insurance company. They were awful to work with and made me feel dumb and again even worse. I had no idea who to work with outside of insurance and the cost was very prohibitive for the situation I found my business in at the time.
So after searching for anything I could get my hands on to help, I found meditation. I did it daily for 7-days. Then for 30-days, then two months, six months and eventually this became one of the most powerful tools to make me feel normal again. It is now a lifestyle and I do it daily in the morning and practice other mindfulness practices all throughout the day many days.
This was a game changer in my life.
I’ve now been doing this stuff daily for nearly 8-years. Then last year the pandemic hit as we reviewed above. What I found was although the stress was real and we had to deal with a ton of awfulness, I was not overly stressed. I was kind of gliding through the storm with little wear. It is like my daily practice was a rain poncho and I was able weather the storm with very little harm. So here is the deal, mindfulness and meditation truly helped me overcome my depression and I can see how it totally made dealing with and coping with the shit storm the pandemic created fairly easy. I feel if this hit 10-years ago, my mental state would be in shambles.
So if you are reading this right now and feel you are beat up and tattered… now might be a good time to look into finding your own mindfulness practice as a self-care routine. It will not “fix ya” overnight, but once you learn these skills you will use them the rest of your life. I’m betting you will be sharing a similar story next year if you do this today and practice daily. May you all find the peace, calm, and solace you need in these difficult times. Trust me… you can beat this stuff. Good luck, my friends! You got this!
Want to try adding mindfulness and meditation to your self-care routine? Click below to get details about this free intro mini-course. In it we cover roughly an hour’s worth of lessons in roughly 7 short easy lesson chunks. It’s a great way to feel these ideas out and see if they are right for you at no cost.