COVID-19: How is it affecting mental health?
As the coronavirus has swept across the globe, many people are becoming increasingly aware of the toll that COVID-19 is having on their mental health. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “isolation prevents the spread of an infectious disease by separating people who are sick from those who are not. It lasts as long as the disease is contagious.” Although the new norm of isolation and social distancing is helping to curb the virus from spreading, it is causing a wave of mental health issues.
What is the effect on mental health?
Many mental health experts claim it is normal for individuals to feel anxious and worried, however; increased isolation from the coronavirus has affected mental health on a new level. In April 2020, one in four American adults met the criteria used to diagnose a serious mental illness, which is roughly a 700% increase from 2018 pre-pandemic data.
The data, taken from a San Diego University/Florida State University survey showed that the surge of mental distress was distributed across all age and demographic groups, with individuals ages 18-44 seeing the largest spike in mental distress.
The federal crisis hotline, which is run by SAMSHA, reported a 1,000 percent increase in calls in April 2020 compared to that of April 2019. Texts to the hotline also increased with just over 20,000 people texting for help in April 2020.
Experts agree that mental health issues are not surprising as the pandemic has created the perfect storm for these challenges. More and more people are dealing with isolation and social distancing combined with anxiety and economic issues, which is having profound impacts on psychological and physical health such as:
- Sleep Issues
- Change in appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Increased substance use
How do you take care of your mental health?
Taking care of your mental health is one of the most important things you can do during this time. Try some of these tips to support physical and psychological well-being.
- Connect with others. Communicating with friends and family can help lessen the feelings of isolation. It is also one of the best ways to reduce anxiety, depression, loneliness, and boredom. Talk to others about how you are feeling and use this time to check in on how they are feeling as well.
- Relax and focus. Taking deep breaths, stretching, and meditation are great ways to focus on yourself in the moment and decrease stress. Research shows that just 10 minutes per day of meditation can lessen depression and increase resiliency.
- Journal: Maintain a sense of hope and positivity by keeping a journal to write down the things for which you are grateful. Journaling can also help you prioritize your fears and concerns and give you an opportunity for positive self-talk as you identify negative thoughts and behaviors.
- Connect with nature: The outdoors and sunshine can improve mood by slowing activity in the area of the brain associated with anxiety. Being in nature can help to reduce fear, anger, and stress while making you feel better emotionally.
- Manage technology: Setting limits around screen time is more important than ever. Even though we are spending more time in front of screens, you need to take a break and engage in other activities that make you feel relaxed.
Everyone is feeling heightened levels of stress during the pandemic, but some people may need a higher level of care to treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression. At Pasadena Villa, we provide evidence-based treatment for adults who are suffering from severe and persistent mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. Our clinical team works with the client and their family to design a treatment plan customized towards the client’s individual needs.
We understand that the COVID-19 has caused some people to not seek treatment, but during this time we know the importance of adhering to healthcare universal precaution measures and are doing our part to minimize exposure by following the CDC guidelines and recommendations of the local health authorities. Each campus of the Pasadena Villa Network continues to be COVID-19 free, demonstrating the virus can be managed if we remain diligent in following recommended health and safety guidelines to keep our environment disinfected and sanitized.
Our treatment environment is firmly rooted in Pasadena Villa’s Social Integration Model TM, which provides real time therapeutic activities while experiencing real life activities, we have made changes around our campus that allow us to continue to serve our clients and provide the care they need. We have taken a comprehensive approach during this critical time to social distance on and between campuses by using our outdoor space as weather permits and being creative about how we use our group room and treatment space. Additionally, we have created an isolation space for clients supported by virtual and live sessions.
To further protect our clients and staff, we are vigilantly cleaning and disinfecting all frequently handled and common high-touch surfaces within shared spaces using CDC approved and recommended products. We are also partnering with our clients to ensure their rooms and houses are disinfected properly. Our staff is following the CDC recommended 20-second rule for hand washing before entering any client occupied areas, before and after meals, each client encounter, and whenever staff is by a sink. We have also expanded access to alcohol-based hand sanitizers throughout our campuses.
We are practicing and encouraging those on our campuses to social distance, wear masks, wash their hands, and not touch their face and mouth. We remain diligent in using standard and coronavirus precautions to reduce fear, increase competence, and readiness to remain accessible in helping clients through the recovery process.