We made it past election day. We came together and got out the vote. We were stressed through the vote counting. We continue to quarantine, work remotely and start new projects. Now, we “keep calm and carry on” ? The hidden truth is that there are many far from calm and struggling to carry on.
The negative effects and lasting consequences of the economic crisis, social unrest, and post-election political divide of 2020 are driving many people down a hopeless path leading into the holidays in social isolation. The COVID-19 Pandemic has a growing co-pandemic as the tsunami of mental health afflictions continue to surge in the country.
According to the Kaiser Foundation, during the ongoing pandemic, the growth of U.S. adults with mental health issues jumped to 53 percent. “Those experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, for example, reached 40 percent this summer, up from 11 percent a year ago.” Moreover, Google trends report that search queries for anxiety due to the pandemic and the uncertainty of the elections continue to increase.
The Kaiser mental health analysis validates that loneliness, job loss and economic worries, as well as fear of contracting the virus are among factors cited as contributing to people’s mental health problems.
The President-Elect of the American Psychiatric Association Vivian B. Pender, M.D. says, “We are in the midst of a mental health epidemic right now, and I think it’s going to get worse. In a way the worst is yet to come.”
The pandemic scenario, coupled with unemployment nearly at 15%, has many with no health insurance and those with existing mental health conditions deciding not to keep their therapy visits or buy needed medications.
During and after disasters, the strongest and positive among us will still struggle, but fair better than most. As individuals, we need to take care of our own mental health first so we can help others. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has tools to help you check-in with yourself and identify resources. If the stress of the times is taking over your ability to cope and incapacitates you from work or daily chores for days or weeks, you may need help.
As we count down to upcoming holidays, let’s give thanks, volunteer, count our blessings and donate to food banks. Reach out to family and friends that you suspect may be struggling. Virtual gatherings, a phone call or sending a holiday card may make a difference in someone’s life. Consider sending a contribution to your community’s nonprofit mental health clinic. The National Council of Behavioral Health indicates an estimated 54% of free mental health clinics closed since the onset of COVID-19, and many persons face weeks of waiting time to receive help.
Here are six tips and the CDC link to learn more on coping with anxiety:
- Take care of your body– Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs
- Connect with others– Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships and build a strong support system.
- Take breaks– Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Take deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
- Stay informed– Lack of information adds to your stress. Keep informed through credible sources and be aware that there is a lot of misinformation, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources such as your local government authorities.
- Avoid too much exposure to news– Constant watching, reading, or listening to news stories add to your stress.
- Seek help when needed– If distress impacts your daily life activities for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, doctor, or contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
- Learn more about best practices to cope with mental health issues. Go to https://emergency.cdc.gov/coping/selfcare.asp