Here’s a sobering statistic from the World Health Organization (WHO)—in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%.
While this fact is distressing, it’s not that surprising. The pandemic has upended so many areas of our lives, from the way we work and go to school to the way we spend time with family and friends.
Let’s take a closer look at the impact of the pandemic on our mental health, as well as the effectiveness of treatment for pandemic-related mental health problems.
Key Mental Health Stressors
In 2020, the world as we know it took a sudden turn, causing many of us to become anxious and depressed—or exacerbating pre-existing anxiety and depression. Here are some of the stress factors that have played a role in this mental health crisis:
- Social isolation. While social distancing can help stop the spread of infection, it can also have devastating consequences on our mental health and overall well-being. When we can’t spend quality time with our loved ones, we lose the benefit of a critical support network. We’re less engaged in our communities, experiencing a type of loneliness that can be a breeding ground for both anxiety and depression.
- Job loss or change. Many people lost their jobs due to the pandemic, upending their daily routine as well as their financial stability. Others experienced the roller-coaster ride of remote work, with constantly shifting expectations as they learned how to navigate a new reality. For many, the fear of financial loss has been palpable, leading to feelings of anxiety over an uncertain future.
- Sickness and death of loved ones. Sickness can be incredibly stressful, particularly when a disease is new and we lack the tools to treat it. The fear of getting sick can also be debilitating. What’s more, many people lost loved ones to COVID-19—and that loss was compounded by the inability to grieve alongside family and friends.
Who Has Been Affected?
No one escaped the impact of the pandemic. But according to the WHO, the worst mental health effects have been seen in:
- Young people (especially those aged 20-24)
- People with pre-existing conditions (e.g., asthma, cancer, heart disease)
The people in these categories have been more likely to develop symptoms of mental disorders as a result of the pandemic. And for those with pre-existing mental disorders, the situation is bleak—when they get COVID, they’re more likely to suffer hospitalization, severe illness, and death compared with people without mental disorders. Young people with mental disorders and people with more severe disorders (like psychoses) are particularly at risk.
Effective Mental Health Treatment Options
The problem has been compounded by major disruptions to mental health services around the world, with gaps in desperately needed care. In fact, for much of the pandemic, services for mental, neurological, and substance use conditions were the most disrupted among all essential health services. Fortunately, most countries have emphasized the need to develop and strengthen mental health and psychosocial support services as a result of this ongoing crisis.
And here’s some good news from the WHO: The psychological interventions they studied were effective at preventing or reducing pandemic-related mental health problems. Relaxation training, internet-based interventions, and guided crisis intervention were all reported to significantly improve overall mental health—and reduce anxiety and depression in particular. Cognitive behavioral therapy, complementary therapies, and peer support groups were also shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and distress.
So if your mental health has taken a hit during the pandemic, remember that you’re not alone. And help is available! Whether you would benefit from inpatient or outpatient treatment, you can find a program that meets your needs. At a mental health treatment center, you can get the care you need to overcome debilitating anxiety and depression and live a joyful life.
If the pandemic has taken a toll on your mental health, please call Beachside Rehab at 866-714-4523. Our caring admissions counselors can help you find the right treatment program to get your life back on track.