The Effect of COVID-19 on Mental Health

By: Tova Kreps, LCSW, President of Wellspring Counseling

2020 – the year of Covid-19, political animosity, economic suffering and racial tension – has taken a large toll on the nation’s mental health. In a study conducted in June by the CDC, 11% of respondents reported having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey!
This is a shocking statistic.
The study also revealed that more than 26% reported symptoms of trauma and stressor-related disorders because of the pandemic. This increase in mental health disorders due to the pandemic is adding to the already large numbers of Americans who have some form of mental illness (approximately 19% of the population) or a substance abuse disorder (approximately 8%).
So why has the pandemic affected our mental health so significantly? Let’s consider some common factors:
1. Change. The pandemic made us all abruptly change multiple aspects of how we live our daily lives. We must adapt to these changes, but change is inherently and inevitably stressful.
2. Unpredictability. Change can be adapted to most easily if the what’s, how’s, and when’s of the change are known. But this year has been anything but predictable.
3. Isolation. Handling these new stressors without our usual social support systems has also increased our anxiety. Our social support is what usually carries us through the hardships of our lives, so this has been hard.
4. Specific Stressors. The pandemic has caused specific hardships for many. Some have lost jobs, money, significant life events, health, and even the lives of loved ones. Loss can usually be
handled through healthy grieving, but if it is in the midst of multiple stressors and with limited social support, it can easily give way to depression.
This grim summary of the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of our community may seem daunting. It is true that many normally emotionally stable people have tripped into unfamiliar mental illness territory, and those who were already struggling with mental illness, may have relapsed into dysfunctional thinking or behaviors. But, it is also true that there is hope.
So, take heart and remember several hopeful truths:
1. People are resilient. Like Winnie the Pooh, we are braver, stronger and smarter than we think.
2. Nothing lasts forever. No matter how bad things are, they will pass. Life is made up of seasons.
3. We can get human support. Help is available if we seek it out. We don’t have to be alone.
4. Hardships can make us better people. When we master suffering, we actually become wiser, stronger and usually more compassionate people.
5. Pleasant surprises are often found in the midst of our suffering. More time with family, a slower life-style, or new work environments are just a few perks that have already risen out of the pandemic for many.
When hope seems to be in short supply, remember there is help and people who care are just a click or phone call away. No one needs to feel alone in this. If Wellspring can be of service to you to regain your emotional or behavioral stability, please call or email at: 786-573-7010, WellspringMiami.org, or see the National Institute of Mental Illness website for resources, nimh.nih.gov.