8 reasons mental health is so important during the coronavirus pandemic

The novel coronavirus affects not only our physical health, but also our mental health. Regardless of whether you feel symptoms of COVID-19, this virus has impacted how you get your groceries, where you work, what you wear (namely, a mask), and how you interact with friends and family. 

With this change and uncertainty, we all face new challenges that can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Having a better understanding of the coronavirus-related factors adding to these emotions can help you to 

  • Manage your feelings more easily
  • Discuss these challenges with those around you

While we all participate in physical isolation, we can combat feelings of emotional isolation through improved communication and understanding.

These are some of the most common sources of anxiety and depression that may affect you or your loved ones:

  1. Unemployment
    • Record numbers of Americans are filing for unemployment. Alarmingly, reviews of economic recessions have shown that every one percentage point increase in unemployment rates leads to about a one percentage point increase in suicide rates. 
  2. Uncertainty
    • At the moment, it is unclear when daily life will return to “normal” and what that new “normal” will look like. 
    • Many do not know whether or not they have the virus and might unknowingly expose those around them. 
    • Between the White House and the scientific community, vastly different messages have been conveyed regarding the severity and duration of this pandemic’s impact on the country.
  3. Household isolation
    • Many feel frustrated and trapped because it is more difficult to get time alone.
    • Staying at home more than usual can be particularly problematic for those affected by domestic violence or mental health conditions triggered by isolation. 
    • Sources of community and religious support like churches and local community centers are less accessible.
  4. Remote schooling and school closures
    • Teachers must adapt their lesson plans and teaching strategies to be effective remotely, and students must adapt to learning remotely. 
    • Families who previously relied on school lunch programs now must provide additional meals for their children. 
    • Parents must juggle working with looking after their children and potentially homeschooling their children throughout what used to be the school day.
  5. Barriers to mental health treatment
    • Those already seeing mental health providers may have lost their health insurance or may be limited by their insurance company’s restrictions on telehealth options.
    • In general, it might be more difficult to gain access to traditional forms of mental health treatment in times of crisis, especially due to social distancing and increased demand for treatment. 
  6. Increased demand for certain services
    • Healthcare workers, delivery workers, grocery store workers, internet and telecommunications workers, and manufacturing workers are among the many sectors of the workforce facing massively increased demand for their services. 
    • In particular, news outlets have reported alarming rates of new or aggravated mental health issues among healthcare workers.
  7. Seasonal factors
    • Each year, suicide rates tend to peak around April or May. Thus, these current coronavirus-related stresses compound upon pre-existing seasonal factors affecting mental health.
  8. Loss of loved ones:
    • Many have lost loved ones due to the pandemic or may feel anxiety over a loved one’s health.

Do not judge yourself or others for feeling distressed because of the coronavirus. This affects us all in different ways, and your feelings are valid. And despite the social distancing guidelines, you do not have to go through these feelings alone. 

If you have health insurance, your insurance company’s website can guide you to their mental health support services. Additionally, even those without health insurance can sign up for many telemedicine services. Health.com provides a list of some options for virtual therapy and mental health apps, and Mashable lists free resources for mental health support.

For many people, simply talking with friends or family about how you feel is a great source of relief and empowerment. Do you know anyone in your life who might be particularly affected by one of the issues above? Consider reaching out to them. A simple text, call, or email can help them get through this challenging time. Not only that, but it may also help you relieve some of your feelings of frustration, anxiety, or depression. 

If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Both are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area. For more information, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Coronavirus-related factors that can trigger depression and anxiety

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Dr. Jessica Nouhavandi