By Nicolas Rontanini
When the pandemic first started, every one of us faced problems with adapting to an online environment. We may have had trouble keeping up with the workload, or had difficulty being able to understand the material with the shifting class structure. But as the pandemic continues, another crisis has come about: dwindling mental health.
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) recently published a study showing adults reporting much higher levels of depression and anxiety symptoms (41 percent) compared to pre-pandemic life (11 percent). It comes as no surprise that situations like unemployment, social isolation and changes to school/university programs negatively impact people, but it’s disheartening, nonetheless.
As the pandemic continues to go on, mental health issues continue to get worse. People can start having mood swings, can start to shut down, and even worse is that emergency departments are finding themselves unable to handle the increase in cases. Some families might not have the ability to hire a therapist. Some people have thought about or actually tried to hurt themselves. The pandemic proved the importance of a person’s support network and the need for maintaining mental health.
Early in the pandemic, I had had some similar problems. Coping with sudden and unexpected changes, especially ones that completely change a person’s life, can be incredibly difficult to do. I found myself struggling with anxiety when thinking about if the situation would improve or if I would even be able to make it through the spring. Even now, I still struggle somewhat with these issues. I still have difficulty feeling like I will make it through. And many others are likely feeling the same way.
When reading or watching the news about the pandemic, it is fairly easy to feel helpless. I remember feeling this way for a long while during the early months of lockdown. Feeling like there is nothing you can do, nowhere to go, can make a person want to give up. I felt like giving up and sometimes still do.
Seeking help is always important, but some families can’t do that. And the emergency centers (who are often a last resort) are having trouble meeting patients’ needs. They don’t always have psychiatric professionals on staff and can’t always meet the needs of someone having a mental health crisis. However, some private centers can provide aid through specialized psychiatric care facilities. The downside to this is inaccessibility--many don’t have reputable psychiatric care centers in close proximity or the money to afford them.
Especially now, when anxiety is not so easily combated, and its presence can inflict serious damage, I find it helpful to reach out to people. Letting someone know you’re there if they want to or need to talk can help lessen the feeling of isolation and make someone feel heard. People are physically apart, yes, but we can still be connected. Helping others when they need it can help someone heal and help build a bond between them. Having a friend on the other end of the line who is willing and wants to help can make all the difference.