The Reason The Pandemic May Have Long-Lasting Mental Health Effects

The focus on mental health support during the past year has risen tremendously, and rightfully so. On October 5th, 2020, former President Trump signed the executive order Saving Lives Through Increased Support for Mental and Behavioral Health Needs, which states, "The EO highlights the exacerbation of emotional needs stemming from interpersonal and environmental stressors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent disruption of services, and provides a blueprint to alleviate these ongoing challenges." According to a recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the mental health of Americans is still declining while suicidal ideation is on the rise.  

press release by the American Psychological Association (APA) affirms these concerns, stating, "We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come." The APA reports, from results of its latest Stress in America Survey, that 78 percent of Americans say the pandemic has been a "significant source of stress in their life." 

Staggering statistics on mental health and the pandemic

The data collected in the APA survey is nothing short of alarming, with 67 percent of adults revealing they have had increased stress throughout the pandemic. Furthermore, nearly half of adults (49 percent) claim to notice negative changes in their behavior, such as increased body tension (21 percent), angering easily (20 percent), mood changes (20 percent), and snapping at their loved ones (17 percent). Not only is there an increase in anxiety over the problems presented by the pandemic, but the survey reports that 65 percent of Americans are also worried over the state of the country, while 62 percent worry about mass shootings, and 47 percent over immigration issues.

According to Healthline, specialist in psychiatry at Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, Dr. Iram Kazimi, claims, "No age, gender, ethnic, or socioeconomic group remains unaffected from the stress resulting from the pandemic." However, she does note that some people have been more affected than others, stating, "Research shows that women and minorities remain the most affected compared to other groups." Dr. Kazimi says that women are experiencing more stress when working from home and tending to childcare, while minorities may have less access to mental health services.

Young adults are also struggling

Teens and the young adults are being negatively affected by the pandemic as well, and Dr. Kazimi says, "The statistics in the report are alarming... Half of young Generation Z teens have said that the pandemic has affected their outlook on their future, with a similar number saying that it's made their futures seem downright 'impossible.'" The APA survey reports that Gen Z shows the highest stress level over all other generations, and the WHO reports that 9.7 percent of the youth in America have severe depression. According to Kazimi, this could be from the loss of their older loved ones, or canceled milestones such as graduations and weddings.

While managing mental health is challenging, especially in a time of great difficulty, there is hope. The APA survey states an important factor in managing mental health during challenging times is by remaining hopeful and that 71 percent of Americans report feeling hopeful about their future. Strong mental health support, as well as "self-care and connectedness are keys to long-term resilience, " says Mary Kate Schutt, program coordinator for the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Schutt also says that having a sense of purpose, along with exercise, balanced nutrition, and good sleep will contribute to maintaining a healthy mental state.