The pandemic of 2019 has led to a ruthless year of isolation and loneliness. There was nothing more frightening than dealing with a virus we knew little about as it claimed lives and gradually started shutting down the world as a whole. Upholding COVID restrictions was also not easy. From restricting movement to discouraging all forms of the social congregation, closing down businesses, and imposing mandatory confinement on everyone, the pandemic was a test against time.
As a result of these strict rules, financial difficulties, an increase in domestic abuse cases, usage of substances, and feelings of despair started emerging within the population. Unfortunately, despite moving out of the worst COVID had to offer, these mental health issues have not improved and still require immense work and treatment. Here’s a more in-depth look at the weight of COVID on mental health:
Understanding Mental Health Issues
Mental health has always been a complex topic. You cannot quantify it, nor are there any metrics to measure the severity of each condition. However, the pandemic has hurt the world’s mental peace in unpredictable ways. The virus increased the need for therapy, counseling, prescription medication, and rehabilitation. The CDC reported that between lockdowns, the rate of anxiety and depression increased in Americans from 36% to 41%.
Additionally, the local population experienced several nervous breakdowns, started becoming paranoid about their health, and showed signs of anger, irritability, fear, and anger.
While professional mental health experts are available to cater to the population, it is not enough. The solutions to mental health issues lie in more community outreach programs and an increase in public health professionals acknowledging these conditions and working towards resolving them. Mental health issues do not go away on their own. Suppressing them can cause symptoms to intensify, making them far more challenging to avoid.
A Look Into Mental Health Crises
Mental stress is challenging to carry. The impact of one mental issue starts showing across your body. If you’re suffering from a severe mental health condition, it can also take a toll on your physical health. You may lose your appetite, feel overwhelmed with thoughts, and have no outlet to eliminate your worries. On a broader scale, this can lead to intense social withdrawals, massive substance abuse, and consistent feelings of loss and suffering.
Here’s what has happened!
- A Break in Mental Health Services
Therapy and counseling require active engagement to feel the full effect of your progress. This involves having a face-to-face connection with a mental health professional, a safe space to share your thoughts, and a margin to evaluate what you feel. However, therapy is one of the many businesses that either closed down or had to shift online. This resulted in a disruption in mental health services which impacted clients severely.
Some of them stopped seeking online care, started experiencing more significant anxiety, no longer felt safe to talk, or had to deal with fatigue with no outlet to regain their strength. When your mental health is in shambles, it can affect the people around you, causing them to pull away, further isolating you. As a result, more mental health issues may emerge, which may be too complex to treat. This can also lead to self-harming thoughts and seeking substance abuse as a remedy.
- Intense Anxiety and Depression
As social creatures, we crave the comfort of a bond and family, so when you get locked in your house for an indefinite period, it can push you into an intense social withdrawal. You may start overthinking, worrying about your loved ones, panicking about getting your financial needs fulfilled, and consistently feel lonely.
Over 19% of the American population have anxiety, while more than 8.4% experience a depressive episode. Anxiety and depression grow with social isolation; being away from loved ones and friends can take a toll on you. The pandemic only highlighted these mental health conditions by bombarding people with several concerns that left them rattled.
Essential and frontline health workers also felt exhausted, tired, and depressed for having to work minimally paying jobs and working around the clock. With some companies’ unprecedented closure, it has also led families to burn through savings to keep up with the piling bills. All this can lead to immense sadness, appetite suppression, erratic behavior, sleep deprivation, and paranoia.
- PTSD Among Domestic Violence Survivors
Domestic violence is traumatic to deal with. The victim has to tiptoe on eggshells not to set their abusers off, or the repercussions are heavy. According to the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, domestic violence cases have increased by 33%, and the pandemic added to this number by causing an 8% increase.
As COVID called for lockdowns, most victims had nowhere to go forcing them to live with their abusers. Such situations lead to lasting damage in the form of PTSD, which is a response to tragic events. PTSD can cause recurring nightmares, flashbacks, and unexplainable body aches. Unless treated, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and paranoia. In extreme cases, PTSD can cause a lack of focus and memory problems. Without a proper crackdown on domestic violence, these issues will continue thriving, with some ending in fatality.
- Younger Generation Turning to Substance Abuse
The younger generation may have felt the most brutal blow of dealing with COVID-19. The youth experienced their schools closing down, degrees left unfinished and their whole life put on hold. The closure of businesses led to more than 40% of workers experiencing a reduction in their income, while others had to leave their jobs. These factors all culminate, weighing down on the younger generation pushing them to self-harm, use substances, and deal with their depression alone.
Some of the younger population also come from domestically abusive households, and with their COVID forcing them to share a space, it is also dangerous. Along with the youth, this disruption in education, loss of economic opportunities, the stress of dealing with a family, and feelings of loneliness also caused more than 13% of Americans to start using substances to deal with the effects of COVID-19.
Substance abuse may begin as a harmless escape from reality but quickly becomes addictive. The younger generation who start abusing substances chase a certain high and euphoric feeling. When they’ve been deprived of happiness, get angry, and struggle to process their emotions, substances help them relax.
The pandemic of 2019 introduced a society that was not sustainable and painful to live in. The infectiousness of the virus caused the population to go into complete lockdown, which secluded people from the world and forced them into mundane routines. As a result, the lack of human interaction coupled with financial stress, inaccessibility to resources, and unemployment, caused the population to become widely anxious and depressed. The pandemic also closed down many therapist offices and counseling groups, causing some of those seeking mental health treatment to regress to square one.
The youth seem to have suffered the worst burn as most of them had to put their academic endeavors on hold and deal with financial troubles, lack of opportunities, and complete social isolation, making them turn to intoxicants for help.