COVID-19 has had numerous effects on individuals and communities throughout the world over the past year. People have lost loved ones, experienced financial burdens, and have generally been living in fear of either falling ill themselves or of loved ones getting sick. Have we discussed enough, though, how this global pandemic has been affecting mental health? It is important to acknowledge the seriousness of a global pandemic, not only regarding the mental health of individuals currently in treatment but also regarding other individuals becoming newly diagnosed due to the pandemic. COVID-19 has impacted mental health, causing an increase in stress, anxiety, and other struggles, not only as a result of extended periods of self-isolation but due to the shutdown of so many facilities and treatment centers.
COVID-19 Affecting the Mental Health of All Kinds of Individuals
A publication in The Lancet claimed that self-isolation could cause deterioration in an individual’s mental health status. While certain types of individuals may be more susceptible to experiencing more severe symptoms of COVID-19, all types of individuals have been experiencing an influx of distress that the pandemic has been inducing on the state of mental health throughout the world.
In children and teenagers, time away from school and friends can be confusing and difficult. However, for those experiencing distress from self-isolation coupled with an abusive environment, the effects on their mental health will most likely be long-term. The elderly, who are more at risk of falling ill to COVID-19, are also experiencing increased anxieties and distress, which can be trauma-inducing. This is especially true for those who rely heavily on assistance from family members or those residing in nursing homes and already struggling with mental health issues.
People of all ages and communities are experiencing the impact of this pandemic, and although everyone is going through it together, many cannot help but feel alone.
Increased Suicide Risks Amidst the Pandemic
Many factors affect the risk of increased suicide rates during pandemics. There have been reports of an increase in self-harm ideations among medical staff in COVID-19 centers, as well as individuals who have tested positive. Fear of the outcome of contracting COVID-19 leads to distress, which in turn leads to impulsive decision-making. This is occurring globally, with examples such as front-line workers in South Asia experiencing increased sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, substance use, and self-harm.
Based on the theories of suicide, individuals may be experiencing one or more of the following scenarios:
- Difficulty with self-isolation, social distancing, and an overall lack of social engagement
- An unprecedented amount of stress due to the loss of loved ones, financial struggles as a result of unemployment, or the lack of social structure
- Struggling to cope with extreme social regulations, such as lockdowns, travel restrictions, and again, lack of social interaction, resulting in the consideration of suicide as a means of escape from the pandemic
- Such overwhelming fear of infection and infecting others that they feel it is self-sacrifice
- Overall hopelessness for the future as the pandemic progresses
Circumstantial factors impact the level of hopelessness, fear, and panic people may experience. Homeless populations, for example, often experience mental disorders and substance abuse. These, in conjunction with the perceived vulnerability of infection, can increase the risk of suicide. Domestic abuse victims are another example, as they have been forced to be home more often with their abusers, increasing exposure to constant distress as a result of lockdowns and isolation. There is a high risk of suicide among stigmatized groups as well due to a lack of access to healthcare or treatment centers.
Coping With the Stresses of COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests the following ways to cope with general stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- Taking breaks from news coverage
- Taking care of your body
- Doing activities you enjoy
- Connecting with others or your community through phone calls, video chats, and social media
However, managing stress and mental health concerns during this crisis may require other forms of immediate help. The CDC recommends:
- Reaching out to your healthcare provider if you’re struggling with daily activities for several consistent days
- If you or someone you know are showing signs of suicide, reach out immediately to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
- Go to the CDC’s website for lists of other resources if you’re in crisis
Despite the current global pandemic and these continued unprecedented times, we here at the Lakehouse have worked diligently to make the necessary alterations in order to provide telemental health care. We continue to provide counseling, group treatments, and an overall sense of community among patients in a virtual atmosphere.
Along with the fear, worry, and uneasiness that come with living through a global pandemic, there is, unfortunately, an increased risk of suicide. Whether you were seeking treatment before the pandemic or are seeking it now due to the constant distress COVID-19 has caused you, we encourage you to reach out. We have transitioned our clinical programs here at Lakehouse Recovery to work smoothly in a virtual setting for those who do not currently have access to mental health care. You will find that even though video chats and virtual group meetings, the sense of community at Lakehouse is as strong as ever. You will be able to work with our qualified therapists and case managers to start your recovery process right away because when we say we focus on individualized care, we mean it. Please call (877) 762-3707 to learn about our programs and telemental health care options. If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. We can get through this together.