For much of the American public, life is anything but normal during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are surrounded by a constant stream of news, warnings, and guidelines all put in place to help ensure our safety, but there is one area that is getting more attention from health experts, and that is mental health.
Most households are concentrating on maintaining jobs from home, or receiving unemployment benefits to keep our pantries stocked, our lights on, and things running as normally as possible. Through state-mandated social distancing and quarantine orders, we are advised to only leave for necessities. Where does mental health fall on the list? Are we making it a necessity?
This is a concern that is growing among mental health experts, who are cautioning the public to be on the lookout for symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation in loved ones, friends, and other close-knit community groups. The long-range effects of the pandemic on mental health are not yet known, and this is leading to cautionary suggestions and options for public health as a whole.
The National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI), is recommending some guidelines to protect mental health during the Coronavirus Pandemic. These include:
- Keeping daily routines, such as waking and bedtime hours, to maintain healthy mindset and productivity.
- Checking reliable sources, such as the CDC or Johns Hopkins University, for important health information to avoid health anxiety.
- Keeping regular meal times in place, and
- Practicing self-compassion.
Remote workers and those in quarantine are not the only groups at risk for mental health issues spurred by the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. Healthcare workers and those on the front line are also experiencing an increase in cases of anxiety and depression, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The cost of emotional labor is hitting women and nurses especially hard as their daily tasks necessitate comforting others, which can lead to psychological distress. This is compounded during the pandemic by the fact that families often cannot be with those who are sick, so healthcare workers are stepping into the gap along with their medical care. The development of special health intervention programs is one outcome being considered as a way to offset potential long-term stress for these workers.
Digital chats and virtual happy hours are quickly becoming the new way to socialize from our home environments; but, for some, these meetings can cause additional stress and anguish. Those of us who are working from home are already utilizing platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangouts for work purposes, which can make extracurricular conversations feel like work. Creating a balance between these interactions, on-screen and off, is recommended to help quell stress and anxiety for those affected by increased technology usage.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone differently, and the long-term outcomes are still unknown. As we continue to traverse this period of quarantine and digital connectivity with the outside world, it’s interesting to note that the conversation on mental health had already been opened up—leading to more attention to it during the pandemic. We expect mental health to be addressed in proximity to our physical well-being, and for healthcare to make it a point during this crisis.
While we watch the trend, this is also our personal reminder to take care of yourselves. This includes checking in with loved ones, co-workers, and family. Establishing routines, and healthy habits during this unprecedented time in our history can help to foster a positive mental outlook.