Life During Quarantine has changed the world as we know it. I have been exploring the various topics over the last year or so. One I was a little hesitant to talk about, mental health. A local film festival here in Coronado, CA has a film short highlighting those who attempted suicide by jumping off the bridge but survived.
It’s a topic that is difficult at best to address. The truth of the matter is that much of the world population has been wrestling with the changes of life as we know it, and some have had more issues than others. Among the most talked-about consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the toll taken on mental health, both in children and adults. Mental health experts were concerned about repercussions from the very beginning, but inevitably, given the stakes of contending with the virus and the unfamiliar territory we’ve all found ourselves in, it has been difficult to manage proactively.
I have personally found myself more stressed out now than during the pandemic because of supply chain issues. The not knowing has caused distinct changes at work. Orders delayed; people upset because we don’t know. The uncertainty at times has made me feel uncomfortable.
But the reality is I believe this a first-world issue: I can’t get what I want now. I am deeply humbled by friends and colleagues who during this time have dealt with schooling children, elder care, death of loved ones, job losses, and the like. The world has drastically changed and having a flexible mindset to cope is key. The other benefit of all these changes is that the world got a chance to see the reality of our next generations. What single parent households deal with on a day-to-day basis?
The other eye-opener for me as we near Veterans Day is the struggles of our active and retired military. I recently went to a fundraiser for a local group. STEP, support the enlisted. We did an exercise to get play money for your position and went around to different tables to see how far that goes for basics like housing, food, and rent. Never mind the mental issues, health issues, and the like.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source found that of the adults surveyed in the United States:
- 31% reported symptoms of anxiety or depression
- 13% reported having started or increased substance use
- 26% reported experiencing stress-related symptoms
- 11% reported having suicidal thoughts
Scientists are starting to see a global “surge” in depression. According to a December 2020 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, 42% of people in the country reported symptoms of anxiety or depression that month. This was a huge increase from the 11% they recorded in 2019. This surge in depression and anxiety, while worrying, is not surprising given the numerous challenges the pandemic has posed to so many of us. People who reached out to MNT spoke about recurrent feelings of anxiety, depression, panic, loneliness, and isolation.
“I have retreated into myself over the past year and found myself reaching out less and less to friends as if I’ve become used to living life alone,” one reader said. Readers mentioned several reasons for their anxieties, including fear for one’s health and the health of a loved one, loss of income, being alone, and having too many parental responsibilities, to name only a few.
There have been many positive results as well. People spent more time with family, hobbies, and less time being out in stressful situations. “A silver lining of the situation we’ve been in is that I’ve been forced to slow down and reevaluate the priorities in my life. Over the [past] year, I’ve been exercising more, sleeping better, and spending time on my hobbies. Generally, I feel better than I’ve felt in years.” https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/how-has-social-media-affected-mental-health-during-the-pandemic#Impact-of-public-health-crises-on-mental-health
Surveys show that women, parents of young children, and people of color are most affected by pandemic-related disruptions and need more support. The full impact of the pandemic could take years to be felt across academia, and researchers studying the problem warn that measures are urgently needed to support the scientists most acutely affected by disruptions, especially women, parents of young children, and people of color.
The very people who monitor our world, scientists, were also deeply touched by the pandemic. The more recent poll also found that research output fell for many researchers last year, compared with 2019. Scientists who do not work on COVID-related projects reported that their new publications and submissions dropped by 9% and 15% during 2020, respectively. More troubling, says Wang, is that scientists overall launched fewer research projects in 2020, with an average drop of 26% compared with 2019.
“It’s the generation of those new projects that is so important,” says Reshma Jagsi, an oncologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Fewer fresh ideas could snowball into fewer publications and funding opportunities further down the line, she says. Another analysis3 by Wang and his colleagues of the 2020 survey data, published in July 2020, found that the negative impacts of the pandemic were disproportionately affecting female scientists and scientists with young children, with time being diverted to caring for kids. The gender gap has turned up in several other studies. An analysis of manuscripts4 submitted to more than 2,000 journals published by Elsevier, based in Amsterdam, found that women submitted proportionally fewer manuscripts than did men from February to May last year, despite a flurry of publishing activity at that time — submissions to Elsevier journals jumped by 30% compared with the same period in 2019. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03045-w
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives. Many of us are facing challenges that can be stressful, overwhelming, and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can make us feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. Learning to cope with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and those around you become more resilient.
Stress can cause the following:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
It is natural to feel stress, anxiety, grief, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are ways that you can help yourself, others, and your community manage stress.
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and disconnecting from phone, tv, and computer screens for a while.
- Take care of your body
- Take deep breaths, stretch
- Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals
- Exercise regularly
- Get plenty of sleep
- Avoid excessive alcohol, tobacco, and substance use
- Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, cancer screenings, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider
- Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine
- Make time to unwind — Try to do some other activities you enjoy
- Connect with others — Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling
- Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations — While social distancing measures are in place, try connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail
Some observations from the realm of our children’s mental health come from a study I read. There are some positive outcomes to celebrate, with respect to parenting. Of the parents we polled, 87 percent said they are spending more quality time with their children and 78 percent said they are showing more affection to their children than before the pandemic.
Along with that increased affection came a softening of rules, for better or worse. Seventy-three percent of parents said they relaxed certain rules during the pandemic. Of that group, 70 percent cited screen time, 56 percent cited bed and wake times, and 51 percent cited food-related rules. In reflecting on rules, a common sentiment among parents (68 percent) is that they wish they’d let their children socialize more, believing some of the protective benefits did not outweigh mental health consequences.
“From the perspective of mental health professionals, parents being better attuned to their child’s social and emotional needs is another potential silver lining to this pandemic,” says Dr. Cicchetti. “While parents may be second-guessing some of the decisions that they made during this uncertain time, it is clear from this sample that many parents have been actively trying to adjust routines as needed to manage the disruptions to family, school and social norms.”
Resources and Social Support Services
- Food and Food System Resources During COVID-19 Pandemic
- Disaster Financial Assistance with Food, Housing, and Billsexternal icon
- Coronavirus Resources for Rentersexternal icon
- If you are struggling to cope, there are many ways to get help. Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.
- During times of extreme stress, people may have thoughts of suicide. Suicide is preventable and help is available. More about the risk of suicide, signs to watch for, and how to respond if you notice these signs in yourself or a friend or a loved one, can be found here.
- Free and confidential crisis resources can also help you or a loved one connect with a skilled, trained counselor in your area.
If you are in crisis, get immediate help:
- Call 911
- National Suicide Prevention Lifelineexternal icon: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or Lifeline Crisis Chatexternal icon.
- National Domestic Violence Hotlineexternal icon: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
- National Child Abuse Hotlineexternal icon: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
- National Sexual Assault Hotlineexternal icon: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or Online Chatexternal icon
- Veteran’s Crisis Lineexternal icon: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Crisis Chatexternal icon or text: 8388255
- Disaster Distress Helplineexternal icon: CALL or TEXT 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish).
- The Eldercare Locatorexternal icon: 1-800-677-1116 – TTY Instructionsexternal icon