How COVID-19 Changed the Way People Are Viewing Mental Health
Stay At Home Orders, unemployment, loneliness, economy shutdown, climbing death rates, masks, and social distancing has been the theme for 2020 and most likely will also be the theme for 2021. COVID-19 pandemic has changed our world. It has taken lives and livelihoods and has changed how we work, how we go to school, how we interact with others, and how we view the world.
Even if this virus has not infected us, we have all been affected. We have stayed home, learned to adapt through virtual interactions, and adopted creative outlets to spend our time. Some of us have learned new skills and had to drastically change the way we make an income while others continue to struggle to make ends meet. Many of us have struggled with feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety during this pandemic.
We have turned to alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy relationships with food as ways to deal with our feelings. Mental health, addiction, eating disorders, domestic abuse, and suicide have been on the rise during this pandemic. Regardless of our opinions about this pandemic, the economy, or the politics involved, COVID-19 has changed the way we are viewing mental health.
We Connected Through Virtual Platforms
When COVID-19 began, the world had to quickly adapt. Both people seeking mental health care and mental health care providers had to immediately switch to teletherapy despite little (or no) experience with it. Before the pandemic, studies had already shown that teletherapy is effective for many mental health concerns, but this pandemic has solidified the importance, convenience, and effectiveness of teletherapy.
Research on teletherapy, which includes care delivered via phone, video, or both, began around 1960. It grew out of a need to treat hard-to-reach populations, for instance when a forensic psychologist assessed an individual who was incarcerated and referred them to a geographically distant provider for specialized care. Over the decades, research has shown that teletherapy is as effective as in-person therapy, however, this form of virtual therapy did not become popular, until the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although there is still more research that is needed to determine the effectiveness of teletherapy in certain populations including children and the elderly, overall, teletherapy has changed the way we are practicing mental health and most likely it will continue to thrive after we overcome this pandemic. Thanks to teletherapy, mental health, eating disorders, and addiction services are more accessible to those of us who have access to Wi-Fi.
We can connect with a therapist at any hour of the day from the comfort of our own homes. We can jump on a quick video call or chat to discuss rising anxious feelings instead of waiting weeks for an appointment. Our mental health can be addressed right away, instead of having lingering signs and symptoms that can put us into an unhealthy downward spiral.
Even when this pandemic comes to an end and things return to “normal”, the hope is that we can continue to take advantage of the benefits of teletherapy, as this has been a wonderful adaptation that has come out of this life-changing pandemic.
We Reflected and Adopted Self-Care Routines
It is nearly impossible to browse the Internet these days without coming across an article that addresses self-care during this pandemic. This pandemic has impacted every aspect of our lives and as a result, we have learned to adapt and foster more care for our internal environments. Many of us have learned to be still, to be okay with being alone, and to stay at home and find ways to nurture our minds and bodies.
Maybe we never thought about our mental health before, or reflected on our feelings or our pasts, but this pandemic has forced us to take a look at our mental health and find ways to take action to care for ourselves through self-care.
It is truly heartwarming to watch videos of individuals on social media who are learning to adapt and care for themselves in creative ways. This pandemic has taught us adaptation, resiliency, creativity, and self-love. Whether we are cooking for ourselves, exercising at home, connecting with our loved ones through virtual platforms, or learning new hobbies and past times, COVID-19 has allowed us to be more in tune with our feelings and emotions.
We have been given the gift of time and stillness, which has allowed us to practice self-care. Hopefully, when this pandemic ends, we can continue to practice self-care and take a solid inventory of our emotions and feelings throughout the day.
We Embraced the Outdoors
We were told we cannot travel and we must socially distance but we can get into the outdoors to hike, bike, camp, and fish. As a result, mass amounts of people fled into the wild outdoors in hopes of clearing their heads and finding peace.
Recreating in wide-open spaces not only allows us to socially distance but it has allowed us to connect with nature, an incredible coping mechanism. Learning to ski or camp are lifelong lessons and experiences that hopefully we can use as healthy coping mechanisms when we are stressed or feeling down.
In Certain Areas, We Have Started to Destigmatize Mental Health
COVID-19 has done a number on our mental health and many individuals who lived full, successful lives before this pandemic have been shaken to their core. Individuals who never imagined they would experience feelings of depression or anxiety are now learning that mental health disorders can affect everyone at any time.
We have spoken out about our mental health on social media, we are sharing our feelings and emotions with others, we are advocating for therapy and as a result, we are breaking down the stigma associated with mental health and addiction.
This pandemic has broken us down and has shown us that we all are at risk for developing depression or a substance use disorder. Hopefully when we return to our “normal lives” we can continue to recognize and fight for access to mental health treatment.
A Word From Mindful Psychological Center
As the COVID-19 vaccine begins to become widely available, many of us have hope that this pandemic will soon end however the mental health and economic repercussions will last years. Suicide rates will continue to be on the rise and many individuals will continue to struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety.
We must continue to check in with ourselves and with each other, we must continue to fight for access to mental health treatment, we must continue to find peace and self-care in the outdoors, and we must continue to stay in therapy and share our experiences with others. It is with the hope that mental health and addiction will no longer exclude people from becoming successful components of society, especially when our world returns to “normal”.