Pandemic Leaves Lasting Effects on Mental Health

Pandemic Leaves Lasting Effects on Mental Health

March marks a year into the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Concerns about physical health have increased in the last year, but the uptick in mental health problems is just as alarming.

Michigan and other states within the country have been invoking a mask mandate, social distancing, and limited groups of people together to hopefully slow down the spread of COVID-19 and have the people stay healthy. These mandates are certainly helping with physical health, but many individuals’ mental health has been suffering in the pandemic.

“We’ve been into the pandemic for a little over a year and it took a few weeks or a month before we started seeing an increase in mental health problems,” IHA Doctor John Gardner said. “I’ve said to folks fifteen to twenty years ago that I talk to families about depression and anxiety maybe once a month, but now I’m talking to them about it three or four times a day.”

With the pandemic taking away lots of social aspects of life and people are getting cooped up in their houses, it’s leading to more cases of depression and anxiety disorders. 

“I feel like I’ve had severe anxiety for most of my life,” an anonymous student said. “But the depression part really ramped up in the pandemic, where I was feeling pretty lonely and like nobody could understand what I had to deal with.”

Gardener explained that depression and anxiety disorders have become more widespread in people of all ages throughout the last year.

“Yeah, we certainly have seen lots and lots of teenagers and young adults with anxiety or depression,” Gardener said. “We get some younger kids too, which is hard to manage for them.”

If you are feeling anything related to depression or anxiety, as in feeling hopeless, down, depressed, lonely, a sense of dread, sleep loss, sleep gain, loss of appetite, sudden increase in appetite, becoming more irritable, becoming noticeably fidgety or noticeably slow people, having trouble concentrating or paying attention or thoughts of self-harm or suicide, please seek help. 

“Well there are certainly resources through the health department, we make referrals to therapists,” Gardner said. “If it’s really important, the suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) is always there.” 

Even if it may seem dark, things will get better. If you’re struggling, consider therapy, or even just talking it with a trusted person. Doing simple things like taking a walk, being mindful and taking in the surroundings around you can help. Gardner specifically recommended staying connected. 

“Staying connected doesn’t necessarily mean online, but [using the internet] could help,” Gardner said. “Families need to act like families and do stuff together, such as activities together outside where it’s safe, like hiking, biking, exercising.”

Mental health disorders can feel like a big hurdle to get over, especially with all the chaos the last year has brought. Suicide rates are going up in the country and world, but there’s still hope. If you’re struggling, remember there are reasons to stay alive. There will be a day where you can get better. 

“Depression is smaller than you, even when it feels vast,” Author of Reasons to Stay Alive Matt Haig said in his book. “It operates within you, you do not operate within it. It may be a dark cloud passing across the sky but – if that is the metaphor – you are the sky. You were there before it. And the cloud can’t exist without the sky, but the sky can exist without the cloud.”