2020 saw a global pandemic the likes of which this generation had never seen before. Covid-19 or coronavirus spread from China and across the world causing at the time of writing nearly 1 million fatalities and over 32 million infections. The hardest-hit countries were Russia, Brazil, India, and at the top, the United States. The US suffered over 7 million cases of Covid-19 and over 200,000 fatalities at the time of writing.
Different governments and health authorities around the world combatted Covid-19 in different ways but most countries brought in lockdowns of varying degrees. Borders have been closed, flights grounded, businesses shuttered and people quarantined. Hospitals have been overrun and the medical staff stretched to breaking point. Tourist destinations like Phuket and Las Vegas resembled ghost towns. Millions were made jobless and lost their main source of income.
After months of the pandemic, America is facing another crisis with the mental health of millions being affected by lockdown and quarantine. Depression, suicide, PTSD, and anxiety could all be rising to historic levels.
As the virus arrived and lockdowns began it may not have appeared that worrying to some. For example, maybe your place of employment closed for two weeks and you were still getting paid or you had sufficient savings that you were initially happy to have a surprise two-week break from work. Maybe you thought it would all go back to normal in a couple of weeks or a month at the worst. However, that didn’t happen.
Social distancing has remained and this can affect people in many ways. Some people haven’t seen their families or loved ones in months. People are separated not just by states but sometimes by continents. Elderly people have been cut off from normal social activities and forced to spend most of their time indoors and on their own. Access to caregivers has been limited and basic things like food shopping become difficult.
Many people enjoy their own space and live alone. This doesn’t mean they don’t need human interaction. We are social animals and being cut off from our friends, lovers and families are not natural and cause great upset. This can cause feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, and depression. Single males and people with lower incomes appear to be the worst affected. Even after lockdowns are lifted there are rules in most places limiting physical and social contact. It is also true that many people are frightened of disease and even when they are allowed to travel they have become too scared to go very far.
Many people are in long-distance relationships. These can be trying even during good times as people long to spend quality time with their partners. As social creatures, we like to share our experiences and happy moments. They raise our happiness and life satisfaction levels. Being forced apart by social distancing, border lockdowns or grounded flights raises disappointing thoughts that can turn into depression and anxiety. There are plenty of cases documented where one parent is with the children and the other parent has been trying for months to get home from another country.
One of the biggest concerns to most Americans during the pandemic is money. Unemployment has risen to levels not seen since the Great Depression. More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs in April alone. This leads to two main problems; lack of income and inactivity.
Financial problems are one of the biggest causes of depression and suicide. Lack of employment leads to lethargy and feelings of lack of self-worth. When you have financial worries it can cause huge anxiety, restlessness, lack of sleep and takes a huge toll on both your mental and physical health.
Being unemployed can at first feel ok and perhaps you are a generally positive person and decide to use this time to finish a project you have at home, maybe you are studying online and can now finish your course. Over time, however, this can be hard to sustain. Sleeping patterns get disrupted, you no longer have the social interaction of the workplace and those friendships can start to disappear. You start to feel like you may never get a job again and this all takes its toll on your mental well-being.
Obviously from no unemployment comes a lack of finances. This leads to difficulties in paying bills and can end up in unpaid debts. People may be tempted to not pay their car insurance as they are no longer using it or worse, their health insurance. As financial burdens arise the problems build up and at some point, they will become insurmountable. This leads to depression and anxiety to possible substance abuse, homelessness, and suicide. There are places that can help if you are needing help financially, it is never too late to talk to one of these charities or organizations. You can check out some information about debt here.
This comes from being unemployed or unable to attend university or school. Whatever your daily routine was before Covid-19 arrived it has most likely changed completely. It is important for us to have some sort of routine. If you are working from home set the hours and stick to them. After a few days or a week of lockdown with nothing to do your sleep pattern will start to change. Lack of activity can lead to lethargy and you may find yourself sleeping until lunchtime and staying up all night. Exercise is important even if you cannot leave the building. Try to set daily tasks to keep your brain and body active.
It is obvious that America is facing a mental health crisis with a health care system already stretched to breaking point. To help yourself try to keep to a routine and wake at the same time each day. Write a list of things to do if you have no work. Take some form of exercise to stay active. There are many different treatment approaches and if you or a loved one is struggling and needs help there are services available.