Mental Health in a Pandemic: Advice for Self-Care
By Marianna H.
During this global pandemic, individuals of all ages find it challenging to resume normalcy.
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It is difficult to identify if a loved one is suffering from a decline in mental health, but it is even more difficult to acknowledge your personal decline of your own mental health. During this global pandemic individuals of all ages have been greatly affected. Children have been putting their social lives on hold, teenagers have had to lose their best years of youth, and adults have lost their own connections to the real world. The world came to a total stop as days seemed longer and more difficult to manage. Stay-At-Home Orders and physical distancing have taken away our human connection. Symptoms of anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, fear, and concern have increased by 31.4% since this past December (Cenikor). As COVID-19 cases increase, the idea of returning back to normal seems distant and the future seems obscured with fears of contracting the virus coupled with unceasing loneliness.
Different age-groups have struggled in different ways with trying to overcome mental disorders or depressive states. Four main types of individuals (children, teens, adults, and senior citizens) are coping with divergent emotions and struggles. A study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that “Compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%.” As for senior citizens, it was reported that, “...ages 65 years or older reported significantly lower percentages of anxiety disorder (6.2%), depressive disorder (5.8%), or trauma- or stress-related disorder (TSRD) (9.2%) than participants in younger age groups.” In adults, “during June 2020, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use.” The study went on to reveal that 31% of adults surveyed reported anxiety and depression disorders, 26% suffered from trauma or stressor-related disorders, 13% started or increased substance use, and 11% seriously considered suicide (Czeisler).
Teens, being a more complex group to understand, tend to keep most of their personal issues and struggles private. There is a daily struggle of being overwhelmed with concerns and responsibilities that teens between the ages of 13 to 18 are facing. According to a survey by the National 4-H Council, “Of roughly 1,500 teenagers who took part in the survey... 7 out of 10 teenagers said they were struggling with their mental health in some way” (Pearson). Virtual learning has diminished connections to other classmates and teachers, making the learning process stressful and less interactive. On top of that, special events teenagers looked forward to such as homecoming, prom, or graduation were cancelled. There were no more school activities, extracurriculars, events, sports, or outings of any kind. 61% of teens have said that the pandemic has increased their feelings of loneliness. Teens with mental disorders and feelings of isolation are now more likely to use drugs and develop a substance abuse disorder over time (Cenikor).
Finding the right counseling is the best method to address mental health disorders, but with virtual sessions, patients have said they’ve lost human connection and have found it difficult to seek services. Lorena, a Wilson high school senior, stated, “before I was getting better with each session, my psychiatrist helped me with my learning journey and I felt confident that I was going to get better. Now, all the process I was building up came crashing down. A lot of things came to a stop. My therapist quit his job due to [the] pandemic and I waited months for a new one.” Although this has been a difficult journey to many, Lorena wanted to remind others that “everyone’s feelings are valid. What you feel at the moment, whether [it] is stress or anxiety, is valid. No one can tell you it isn't valid because everyone's situation is different.”
Managing stress and depression can be difficult, but some reliable methods are:
Be mindful of your intake of information from news sources about the virus, and consider taking breaks from it
Maintain social contact with supportive relationships like friends, family or others, by phone, text, or the internet
Treat your body kindly: eat healthy foods, avoid drugs or alcohol, and exercise as you are able
Call your healthcare provider if your anxiety or depression interferes with your daily activities
Learn about additional strategies to manage your mental health- Visit https://covid19.ca.gov/manage-stress-for-health/ to get started.
If you are currently feeling anxious, stressed, worried, sad, bored, depressed, lonely or frustrated in these dire circumstances, the following resources are available:
Alicia Mondragon, Psychiatric Social Worker for Wilson High School: firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles Unified’s Student & Family Wellness Hotline: 213-241-3840 Weekdays 8am-5pm)
Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 800-985-5990 (TTY 800-846-8517) or text TalkWithUs to 66746 for 24/7 support.
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for 24/7 crisis support.
California Suicide & Crisis Hotlines: Find phone numbers and links to all the suicide and crisis hotlines by county in California.
CalHOPE Peer-Run Warm Line: Call 833-317-HOPE (4673) Monday – Friday from 7am – 11pm for COVID-19 specific non-emergency support.
California Warm Peer Line: Call 855-845-7415 for 24/7 for non-emergency support to talk to a peer or counselor with lived experience.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
Czeisler, Mark É, et al. “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic - United States, June 24–30, 2020.” Edited by Emiko Petrosky and Aleta Christensen, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13 Aug. 2020, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm
“Mental Health and Substance Abuse Is on the Rise for Teens Because of COVID-19.” Cenikor Foundation, 26 Oct. 2020, www.cenikor.org/mental-health-and-substance-abuse-is-on-the-rise-for-teens-because-of-covid-19/
Pearson, Catherine. “The First Data on COVID-19 And Teens’ Mental Health is Here- And It’s Not Good.” HuffingtonPost, 17 June, 2020, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-first-data-on-covid-19-and-teens-mental-health-is-here-and-its-not-good_l_5ee96d22c5b650b4255d3fe4