Despite many people finding themselves tired of COVID-19 (on many levels), it continues to wreak havoc across the nation. And, as evidence continues to demonstrate the far-reaching physical health impacts associated with coronavirus—what about mental health consequences?
Now, because of the longevity of the pandemic, there is measurable research to reveal exactly how the mental health of Americans has been affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 40% of adults in the U.S. have reported struggling with mental health and substance abuse.
These statistics bring to mind the question of whether mental health disorders, as impacted by COVID-19, will be short or long-term? It’s important to consider that while the answer is murky at best, people with pre-existing mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia may be particularly susceptible to the effects of the pandemic. The isolation from the pandemic, in particular, is exacerbating stress and anxiety—for people of all ages—regardless of existing mental illness or not.
Left unaddressed, mental illness can potentially worsen. And, while many people understand this, with all the business closures, including certain healthcare-related resources, where can they go for help? Additionally, people may wonder: Does their insurance cover mental health treatment? Does Medicare cover mental health help? Or, does Medicaid cover mental health assistance?
If you or a loved one has been adversely affected by the pandemic, feeling symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders, you are not alone. And, there are places you can go to receive the help you need and deserve.
At Futures Recovery Healthcare we understand the challenges that come with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders—on top of the unique issues brought about by a worldwide pandemic.
If you or a family member is suffering from a mental health disorder, we can help you develop the tools and approaches to embark on a journey of healing and a life worth living.
How the Pandemic Affects Mental Health
Similar to other types of stressful and unique challenges that impact our lives, the pandemic affects people differently—largely depending on their circumstances. Factors triggering mental health due to coronavirus can include furlough from work or loss of a job, needing to homeschool or monitor online school for a child, isolation from friends, family, and colleagues, financial difficulties, and more.
The stress produced as a result of these unexpected and often sudden situations can manifest in the following ways:
- Concern for your own health and the health and wellbeing of your family and friends
- Worry about employment (losing, finding, or keeping your job)
- Fear that a physical or mental condition will worsen (including chronic conditions)
- Uncertainty as to whether help can be found for physical and mental health problems
Because of the magnitude of worrisome thoughts and concerns, many people experience:
- Problems with sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in eating
- Increase in nicotine use, alcohol consumption, or other substance use
Knowing the signs of stress and anxiety in connection with the pandemic is obviously important in helping yourself or someone you love. But, it’s also important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness in the absence of an unusual circumstance (such as COVID-19)
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness
In addition to identifying the signs of mental health impacts caused during adversity, such as what the pandemic is producing, it’s helpful to also be aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illness during times of normalcy. As you will see, there are several shared pandemic-specific and non-pandemic signs of mental illness.
Signs of mental health disorders can include:
- Problems focussing and thinking clearly
- Challenges coping with everyday situations, problems, and activities
- Feelings of extreme highs and lows (anger or euphoria)
- Delusions and/or hallucinations
- Depression, sadness, and irritability that last for long periods of time
- Suicidal thoughts (or attempts)
- Isolation by choice (preferring to be alone instead of interacting with friends and family)
- Fears, worry, and anxiety that appear excessive and worsen over time
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Use of substances that increases and results in negative outcomes (nicotine, alcohol, and drugs)
Exhibiting the symptoms above, as well as the previously mentioned signs of stress induced by the pandemic may indicate the presence of a mental health disorder. Seeking help for a person who shows signs of mental illness can help their condition from worsening. One of the concerns is suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts). Studies show that 11% of adults in the U.S. have seriously considered suicide during COVID-19.
A person may be considering suicide if indicating the following:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for ways to die
- Discussing being a burden to others
- Giving important items to others
- Expressing feelings of despair, hopelessness, and “no reason to live anymore”
- Abandoning self-care, not caring about hygiene and appearance
- Demonstrating anger, rage, and vengeful behaviors
If you or someone you love is experiencing any of the signs above, it’s vital to seek professional help immediately.
Groups Susceptible to Mental Health Impacts During COVID-19
As we mentioned early on, there are certain people more at risk of being affected by the stress triggered by the pandemic. These higher-risk groups include:
- Adults and children with existing mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, as examples)
- Children and teens
- People tasked for caring for family members and/or loved ones
- First responders (police officers, firefighters, EMS and EMT workers, emergency volunteers, military personnel, etc.)
- Persons who have a substance use disorder
- People who have been furloughed, lost their jobs, or experienced other changes to their employment status
- People who are considered essential workers
- Demographics of certain racial and ethnic minorities
- People who lack access to information in their primary language
- People who are homeless, live in rural areas, or are socially isolated
Where to Go for Help
One of the top concerns among people experiencing the mental health impacts brought on by COVID-19 is where to go for help, and how to pay for it. In response to these concerns, President Trump signed an executive order to further assess the mental health needs of the most vulnerable American populations negatively impacted by the pandemic. The Trump Mental Health Order also focuses on grant funding to support mental and behavioral health services including telehealth, peer-to-peer, and safe, in-person therapeutic services.
Some of the steps that can be taken for you or someone you love in need of mental health resources includes:
- Getting a referral from your family doctor/provider
- Seeking a list of in-plan mental health providers from your insurance company
- Acquiring veteran-specific providers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair at www.va.gov/health or call 1-877-222-8387
- Finding affordable mental health services options through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at http://www.samhsa.gov/treatment or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- Reaching out to your local health department. These services are state-funded and free, under the obligation to first serve individuals who meet “priority population criteria” as defined by the state Mental Health Department
- Contacting Medicare at http://www.medicare.gov (Select “Find doctors & other health professionals”)
- Contacting Medicaid at http://www.benefits.gov/benefits/browse-by-category/category/MED
- Seeing if your company has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program)
In determining where to go to get the support you need for mental illness, it’s important to seek the aid of professional, experienced mental health experts. At Futures Recovery Healthcare we have a program specifically dedicated to Mental Health. We offer individual therapy by licensed clinicians, family therapy, case management support, group therapy, and recreational activities in an effort to help people identify stressors, work on family issues, create lasting recovery plans, promote healthy social skills, improve overall wellbeing and self-care, and more.
Our program is a safe and non-judgmental resource for males and females 18 and over, struggling with a variety of mental health disorders.
We treat disorders such as depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, bipolar and related disorders by using clinical, medical and psychiatric interventions, and support. Our interdisciplinary team approach allows patients to receive holistic services and care. Our goal is to help develop and establish a journey of healing and a life worth living.
You and your loved one can be on the way to healing, happiness, and a more peaceful life. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098.