The Secondary Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Mental Health
July 22, 2022
Full: the status of almost all psychiatric emergency and inpatient rooms. Psychiatric hospitals are overloaded with patients. In the emergency rooms, people sit in the halls, waiting for a room in which they will wait even more. There is an immediate turnaround for discharges to intakes in the psychiatric units. Especially for adolescent units, the wait for a room can be weeks. I met two young boys in the emergency room in May 2021 who had both been there for two weeks and counting. Spending extended periods in the ER has become fairly common for adolescents in the mental healthcare system.
This mental health crisis is ongoing. There has been a steep rise in mental illness for quite a while now, but with the pandemic, there has been a boom. The World Health Organization states that in the first year of the pandemic alone, there was a 25% increase in rates of anxiety and depression worldwide.
I have experienced it first-hand. With the pandemic shutting down businesses and the inability to see friends, my mental health had a downfall. I had previously struggled with mental illness, but I hit an all-time low during the early days of the pandemic. I saw the effects on my friends and those I follow on social media. Those who had been relatively stable before the pandemic was now struggling with mental illness.
In January 2021, recent studies showed that 41% of mostly formerly stable adults were now dealing with symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorders. The pandemic’s impact on everyone, children, young adults, and adults, has been monumental. These effects are lasting. The president and psychiatrist-in-chief at Mclean Hospital, Dr. Scott Rauch, believes the mental health crisis could last for years. In an interview with The Boston Globe, he admits, “This is a multi-year trauma.”
Even as the pandemic is becoming quieter and less talked about, it is especially important to reach out to friends and family right now. Both to check on them and to receive support, if possible. Many resources can help as well. Century College provides access to personal student counseling and a free assessment tool on their website open to students to evaluate whether they could benefit from counseling.
Free peer-led groups cover many topics available through the national alliance on mental illness (NAMI). Another organization called 7 Cups provides a free chat line with trained volunteers and chat rooms. Likewise, you can text HELP to 741-741 or message Crisis Text Line on Messenger to talk with a crisis counselor at no cost. The National Suicide Lifeline is also available 24/7. Their number is 800-273-8255. Texting, calling, or chatting to 988 is another way to connect to the National Suicide Lifeline.
Although hospitals are inundated with patients, it is extremely important to remember that a hospital is an option. Even the ER can give you a safe place to ride the wave and hopefully get to a better place. Safety is a foremost concern and can be addressed in the ER, despite not being a psychiatric unit.
Help is available. This crisis is devastating, but with help, deaths can be prevented, and lives can be changed. If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out today and get help. I know that it can seem daunting; it can be hard to get help, but your life is worth it. Just try, one more time, one more day. That is sometimes the best you can do, and that’s okay.