COVID-19’s Effect on Global Mental Health

Not only are individuals all over the world struggling to stay physically healthy with COVID-19 still on the surge, but individuals are also facing feelings of anxiety, hopelessness, and depression as a response to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 on mental health has increasingly become a larger problem as the year comes closer to an end, with no clear idea for many nations of when life can return to normalcy.

While COVID-19 has left millions of people sick and hospitalized all over the world, it has also had a significant impact on individuals’ mental health and well being. Over the last decade, with social media and technology gaining the attention of billions, a new focus shifted towards the importance of openly discussing mental health. This past year, however, the world’s focus has become completely overwhelmed with tackling the virus and keeping communities physically healthy. Unfortunately, this change of focus towards alleviating the virus has left mental health in the dark.

Regulations enacted all over the world to slow the spread of the virus include isolation from others, working and studying from home, and the canceling of social events. As a result of this, individuals have been consumed by their own thoughts and deprived of social interaction. In fact, according to CNN Health, suicidal ideation is up among young adults as found in a recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no doubt that the pandemic has led to a rise in cases of depression, anxiety, and more.

Even with more and more discussions everyday pointing out the importance of mental health in a time like this, access to mental health services have continually been interrupted. A majority of counseling, therapy, and psychology offices are being closed to in person appointments for safety issues. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), while many countries (70%) have adopted telemedicine or teletherapy to overcome disruptions to in-person services, there are significant disparities in the uptake of these interventions. Some socioeconomic disparities include individuals without access to reliable internet or technology at home. Therefore, many individuals may not only be struggling with their own mental health but also in trying to find available or affordable resources online.

…, many institutions and organizations are recognizing that this pandemic actually presents us with a significant opportunity to reimagine and prioritize mental health care

On a more positive note, many institutions and organizations are recognizing that this pandemic actually presents us with a significant opportunity to reimagine and prioritize mental health care. As quoted by Harvard Medical School on the topic, “Investing in mental health enables each individual to regain hope for the future. It will also contribute to making societies healthier, economically productive, and socially cohesive.” Harvard Medical School currently has a mental health initiative that uses three strategies: empowering through a range of digital tools to build a mental health workforce, champions to build on time-tested executive leadership training, and countdown to develop a set of common core metrics. While their impact has in the past focused mostly on the Harvard community of students and faculty, the initiative is now moving to grow beyond that. More info can be found here.

One piece of advice includes identifying things that one can control in their lives such as planning for one’s future or paying attention to self-care.

With COVID-19’s effect on global mental health now gaining the attention it deserves, a profusion of resources that offer tips and advice for individuals has begun to flood social media and news sources. One piece of advice includes identifying things that one can control in their lives such as planning for one’s future or paying attention to self-care. Also, reminding oneself to take breaks from social media, the news, and anything else that may stir feelings of frustration or stress is another key recommendation made by the CDC.

Investing in mental health is undoubtedly important as it affects individuals in all kinds of different situations. That being said, prioritizing mental health can be difficult, especially during a pandemic when all eyes are on stopping the spread of the virus. Although, reminding ourselves and others just how crucial it is to keep the discussion open about mental health and ensuring communities are offering resources to those who need it will continue to be a central part of working together in a time like this.

While it is still very uncertain when the pandemic will end for countries still facing a surging number of cases, it has become clear that mental health must be prioritized over physical health during the pandemic.

While it is still very uncertain when the pandemic will end for countries still facing a surging number of cases, it has become clear that mental health must be prioritized over physical health during the pandemic. Individuals all over the world are still being separated from their family and friends, forced to remain home in quarantine, potentially losing their jobs due to economic stresses, and even dealing with the loss of loved ones from the virus.

Below is a list of additional resources and articles discussing more ways to cope with the uncertainty that comes with living during a pandemic, some specifically for college students.

Additional Resources for Help:

This article was written by Madison Eberhardt, currently based in Newport Beach, California. You can reach out to the authors at mne234@nyu.edu or @madihardt17 via instagram.

Photo credit: North Central Behavioral Health Systems, https://www.ncbhs.org/covid-19-resources

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