Is COVID-19 Triggering a Mental Health Crisis?

How the coronavirus pandemic is impacting anxiety and depression globally.

Posted Aug 11, 2020

SamWilliamsPhoto/Pixabay
Source: SamWilliamsPhoto/Pixabay

Does the global pandemic have you feeling blue? You are not alone. Many people worldwide are experiencing anxiety, stress, and depression. The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is creating a global mental health challenge due to a number of stressors including job or income loss, childcare, homeschooling, and social isolation.

Over 33 percent of adult Americans consistently reported symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, and that number is rising each week, according to statistics from the Household Pulse Survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in collaboration with the Census Bureau, during May 14 – July 21, 2020. In the most recent poll for the week of July 16 – July 21, 2020 by the same institution, 40.9 percent of adult Americans had symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder. By comparison, during the period of January – June 2019, only 11 percent of U.S. adults over the age of 18 polled reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder according to the NCHS National Health Interview Survey.

In Great Britain, a June 2020 survey by the Office for National Statistics found that among married or in a civil partnership who reported high levels of anxiety increased significantly during lockdown to 39 percent compared to 19 percent in the last quarter of 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This rise may be due in part to the burden of homeschooling—one in four among those who are married or in a civil partnership were homeschooling, compared to one in 10 among the single, divorced, or separated in Great Britain.

In a recent poll conducted by the Commonwealth Fund and the survey research firm SSRS during March-May 2020, 33 percent of adults in the United States reported having anxiety, stress, and great sadness that was difficult to cope with by themselves, compared to 26 percent for the United Kingdom, 26 percent for Canada, 24 percent for France, 23 percent for Australia, 23 percent for New Zealand, 18 percent for Sweden, 14 percent for the Netherlands, and 10 percent for Norway.

Americans also ranked higher than the other countries polled in the same survey for negative economic consequences with 31 percent of U.S. adults reporting the inability to pay for basic necessities such as food, heat or rent, using up most personal savings, or borrowing money or taking out a loan due to the coronavirus pandemic. The figures for the other nations in the poll are 24 percent for Canada, 21 percent for Australia, 19 percent for Sweden, 18 percent for the United Kingdom, 18 percent for New Zealand, 15 percent for France, 7 percent for the Netherlands, and 6 percent for Germany.

According to the same survey, the countries with the highest reported loss of job or source of income due to COVID-19 pandemic include the U.S. at 27 percent, Australia at 26 percent, Canada at 23 percent, New Zealand at 19 percent, and the U.K. at 17 percent. Among the lower percentages for job or income loss due to the coronavirus are Sweden at 11 percent, the Netherlands at eight percent, and both France and Germany at seven percent.  

So here we are. What to do? It may be difficult to imagine right now that there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel--unless you live in New Zealand, which recently achieved 100 days without COVID-19 on August 9, 2020. Until that day comes to where you live, here are some measures that you can take to help thwart the pandemic blues in the meantime.

Perspective

Now more than ever, it is important to practice critical thinking—to gather facts from multiple perspectives, minimize cognitive biases, maximize curiosity, aim for intellectual integrity, and test hypotheses. Seek counsel from trusted advisors and supportive individuals. Strive to maintain an open mind and to be patient and respectful with others. During stressful times, people may be easily irritable and short on patience. Be mindful that despite outward appearances, others may be in pain and suffering. Any amount of kindness and compassion that you can give to others and yourself, can go a long way. Maintaining a healthy perspective during a pandemic is a challenge, but it is not impossible.

Flexibility

In the face of uncertainty and stress, having the ability to bend easily without breaking, can make all the difference. Some people freeze when confronted with extreme adversity and withdraw. Others may seek to avoid the harsh realities and practice escapism. Then there are those that dwell in the past and bemoan the present. None of those activities actually help to solve the problem and move you forward. It is important to assess your situation, create an overall strategy, and construct a plan of action. Expect the unexpected. Think through the various possible scenarios and execute your plan of action accordingly. Continue to set both goals and make progress every day towards achieving them. Measure your progress daily, and celebrate achieving milestone goals, however big or small.

Grit

It takes courage to stare into the abyss of seemingly endless adversity and stand up to it. Muster your courage and prepare to put your capabilities for endurance, perseverance, and resilience to the test. Getting through the pandemic is not going to be easy; prepare to work hard for extended periods of time. It takes hard work to conquer a formidable challenge, meet it head-on with extreme grit.

Never give up

Focusing on having a healthy perspective, being flexible, and embracing the struggle with grit and resilience will help you establish and maintain forward momentum. The mind is as important as the body, and there is no stigma in seeking help from a mental health professional. Distance yourself from negative and toxic people who complain and distract you from what is important and meaningful. Find the people and things that inspire you and learn from them. Surround yourself with supportive people. Never giving up means to keep moving forward. Put one foot in front of the other, and just keep going.

Resources

If you or someone that you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, help is available from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK) in the United States. For Canada, contact Crisis Services Canada at 1.833.456.4566. For the United Kingdom, contact the Samaritans hotline at 116 123. For Australia, contact Lifeline at 13 11 14. For New Zealand, contact Lifeline at 0800 543 354. Find a therapist in the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

Copyright © 2020 Cami Rosso All rights reserved.