As May draws to a close, we are starting to hear the warm whispers of summer. And though we may be looking forward to the heat and the sunshine, we all know that this summer will be like no other. The coronavirus pandemic has radically changed the ways we go about our lives. COVID-19 has undoubtedly impacted the mental well-being of our communities in the midst of loss. We need to be honest with ourselves about that. This quarantine has usurped the distractions that gave us the busyness to get us through our day. Work commutes, errands, social gatherings, salon appointments, sporting events, school activities, etc. are all on hold as we figure out how to live in this current norm. Now, more than ever, we are spending time alone with our own thoughts. The relative silence of the imposed stillness is deafening, sending many people in a downward spiral of negative emotions that were once easily pushed under the rug of a rigorous daily schedule.
We may not fully understand how COVID-19 has impacted us until we make it to the other side of this pandemic. With that being said, recent studies indicating increases in mental health concerns are no surprise. For example, in a Qualtrics study surveying 2,700 employees from Australia, France, Germany, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and the US, 66.9% of participants reported being more stressed since the onset of the pandemic. Furthermore, 57.2% reported more anxiety, 53.8% were more emotionally exhausted, and 75.2% felt more socially isolated. Though a relatively small sample size, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to project these general trends on to the broader population. We are all experiencing the harmful effects of the coronavirus in our own ways. Granted, since this study was primarily conducted in late March and early April, it would be interesting to see if and how these statistics have fluctuated. Our mental states and our ability to evaluate them change as situations evolve. Even still, we are living through a period of uncertainty and we need to support one another through it. Our strength is in community.
Let’s use this time to be intentional about respecting and protecting mental health. Our words and actions now will shape our future post-pandemic world. Let’s work to destigmatize mental health in a variety of ways from taking an insightful wellness survey to sharing fruitful advice to starting coalitions. Anything and everything productive helps and engaging in open dialogue is crucial. Finally, let’s maintain our self-care routines and perhaps develop new ones. Prioritizing mental wellness as individuals will definitely benefit our families, friends, colleagues, and society at-large.
Though May is Mental Health Awareness month, we should continue to discuss and uphold mental health year-round, especially for such a time as this. As we navigate returning to an uncertain normal, may we do so bearing communal health in mind. Please remember that we’re all in this together and that this too shall pass. Here are some helpful coronavirus-specific and general mental health resources:
- Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 and your mental health
- World Health Organization: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- National Alliance of Mental Illness: COVID-19 Information and Resources
- The Mental Health Coalition