There are many reasons why COVID-19 has impacted mental health. I believe if you were to ask most people if this year has been a difficult year generally speaking they would say absolutely.
Before we even were thrust into a life altering upheaval of our daily lives, mental health challenges and substance use disorder was a public health crisis. In six years as a mental health advocate I have heard from over 100 people who were seeking information, support and sometimes advice for how to get help for themselves and/or family members.
As I embarked on attempting to help others with all I had learned over the years, I focused on educating thousands of people from high school and college students to Women’s clubs and the general public.
I share this biographical information with you to help you understand how and why I have insights into how COVID-19 has impacted mental health.
Let’s start with a commonly accepted definition of what being mentally healthy is.
According to the World Health Organization “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual can realize his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”
Let’s break the definition down and discuss how COVID-19 has disrupted our collective state of well-being.
1. Realizing his or her potential
In March, most of us experienced a complete shut down of our economy and social outlets. Many people lost their job, had schools of all level cancelled, couldn’t participate in sports events, couldn’t even watch sports. We couldn’t go to church if you wanted too.
The areas that allowed us to tap into our potential had drastically and dramatically stopped, changed or got canceled indefinitely.
This alone creates a challenge for every person living on the planet who had their potential at the very least dented.
2. Can cope with the normal stresses of life
This is an easy one to explain. NOTHING about 2020 has been “normal stresses of life.”
3. Can work productivity and fruitfully
How one has been impacted by work varies, but at the very least we can surmise some have been more productive and fruitful than others. When your family owned small business is forced to close its doors after generations of existing…I wouldn’t even pretend to comprehend how people would process that.
When he or she loses their job or when predominately women have to quit their job to become school teachers, childcare providers, and then the typical role of being a stay at home parent work productivity changes significantly.
4. Make a contribution to his or her community
There are extraordinary circumstances of how so many people have contributed to their communities. Health care workers alone deserve a hero’s respect for their extraordinary efforts.
Essential workers also have daily put their health and well-being and that of their family at great risk of becoming infected. That’s an undeniable contribution to one’s community.
Others have volunteered to help with food banks. Witnessing an unprecedented amount of need in communities across the nation.
There are other examples of contributions.
And yet, other people have had to stay at home and disengage from volunteering. Imagine a retired senior who can’t volunteer because they are at too great of risk of being infected. Or simply any and all volunteer opportunities being cancelled as events with large amounts of in-person gatherings were postponed.
5. Isolation effects mental health
We were told to limit our contact with others, cancel or significantly reduce our holiday gatherings, and for the most part stay away from people not in your household when possible.
The level of impact on isolation is dependent upon each individual. But loneliness and isolation is known to cause mental health challenges or make them worse if you have them.
The list could go on and on and on.
Awareness to these challenges is one thing, how to help ourselves and others recover is another thing.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post mental health challenges was already a public health crisis. The exponential rise in challenges will continue.
Everyone has some level of resilience.
Everyone has a breaking point.
What can you do about it?
Being aware of how you and your loved ones are handling this is a first step. Paying attention to coping strategies and changes in behavior is important.
Being aware of alcohol intake and other forms of numbing emotions or attempts to cope with substances is important.
Seeking professional help when needed. And not being afraid to reach out for support and help from others.
Those are a few suggestions. Doing a “how to cope with COVID” search will yield much more information and potential resources.
The most simple thing we can tell ourselves is this time too shall pass.
I’m not a fortune teller or psychic, but I do understand data and trends. This blog post is a warning of the importance of being aware of our mental health.
The impact on our collective community mental health is just beginning.
Remember challenges are one thing and solutions are another. We will all have to help each other work toward solutions.
Our mental health depends on it.