Mental Health During a Pandemic | Audrey Womack

With the sudden and dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, therein lies a question: how does a quarantined lifestyle affect those with mental health struggles? Lack of social interaction and exercise puts a damper on those who depend on outdoor activities to balance their livelihood. Along with these effects, a rise in anxiety has been studied by specialists, who have determined that constant news exposure to traumatic events due to the coronavirus may contribute to some people’s deteriorating mental health. Thinking about the health of others, as well as your own, has been shown to create a state of worry among people who are unaware of how to deal with their lack of control over the situation. 

The coronavirus pandemic is a steroid for excessive worries over the economy, one’s education, and the stability of one’s daily routine. This is no doubt a breeding ground for an anxiety disorder. In a recent article, BBC News reported on the importance of keeping a healthy mindset. In the article, one psychologist highlights how in a recent study, many people disclosed “concerns about accessing support and services during the pandemic, as well as the fear that their existing health problems might get worse.” Although these concerns are inescapable, keeping a positive attitude is key to pulling through difficult situations--such as a pandemic. Loss of hope leads to an increase in stress, which plays a tremendous role in anxiety and depression. Depression is the number one leading mental illness in the United States, and cases continue to rise among teenagers and adults alike. Isolation, while necessary to slow the spread of the virus, may have unforeseen effects on those struggling with their mental health. According to Healthline News, people with low serotonin experience insomnia and weight fluctuations, as well as fatigue. This decreases the body’s overall health and its ability to fight off disease, making depressed people more vulnerable to illnesses.

People trapped in unstable home environments are at risk as well. Homelessness is common in every state, as is the lack of sanitation on streets. Homeless people experience difficulties with combating COVID-19 because they have no established place to stay during the quarantine. Most are unable to pay for masks, wipes, and everyday needs such as groceries. Lack of financial stability is a major contributor to mental illness, and the coronavirus has only added to the stress.

From a personal perspective, I myself have had to combat negative thoughts during this time. I’ve suffered from depression for four years now, and I have come to rely on my friends as my “emotional crutch.. Having such an important aspect of my life torn away from me in the span of a day was extremely difficult. Without the balance of my friends and schoolwork to get me out of bed, I stopped trying to be productive. For me, depression removes my motivation to do even the simplest of things, such as eating or talking with others. Without the motivation to get up each day, I simply didn’t see the point in trying to stay positive when people were suffering. While I have a loving family and supportive friends, it doesn’t remove the hopelessness that comes with this pandemic. My depression may seem small when compared to the people who are in worse situations, but everyone’s troubles and worries are valid. And mental illness won't simply stop because I want it to.

 The best thing I, and many others suffering with depression, can do is stay positive. Spreading our love for the thousands of healthcare workers and our appreciation for their hard work is a huge step in redeeming the hope of getting through this tough time. I didn’t share my story with you all to garner sympathy, but rather to tell you that you are not alone. Millions have been affected by this, and if you develop anxious or depressed thoughts during this time, it does not mean that you are different from your peers. Anxiety and depression are different for everyone, but that does not mean your experience can't be shared with others. Opening up is important, especially during this time where friends and family aren't physically close by. Take the time to call and share your thoughts and worries, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. While mental illness can be caused by many different things, expressing your feelings is one solution that all people during this time should harness. I hope all of you find your faith in the world during this crisis, and that positivity keeps you motivated. Stay safe!