There is no doubt that the Covid virus has tested humanity in many ways. It seems to be a huge wake-up call that, apparently, we all needed. It essentially forced us all to slow and then hunker down with only our nearest and dearest.
Being homebound with our children and each other enabled most of us to reevaluate our priorities. For many families, staying home with their children was a new and life-changing experience. Parents realized that spending quality time as a family was more important than they previously thought.
We have all experienced limitations in everyday life to one degree or another. We missed out on weddings, celebrations, school, and sporting events. And more importantly, we had to endure the loss of thousands of lives, children missing school, widespread unemployment, and an incredible amount of stress and uncertainty.
For almost two years, the news outlets have talked about the effect of Covid on our healthcare facilities and personnel. But we don’t often hear about the impact that Covid has had on our mental health system. Unfortunately, it is one of the few industries that has thrived and experienced substantial growth due to Covid.
I can be happy for the mask makers and food delivery companies that have suddenly had immense growth. They are an example of some of the industries who are winners here. But the recent increase in demand for mental health care is not one that we should celebrate.
I think Covid affected people differently based on their personalities and preconditions. For those hypersensitive to illness or germs, an airborne deadly virus is their worst nightmare brought to life. For these people six feet of social distancing is not nearly enough and entering a potentially deadly germ-filled world was not an option.
It is understandable that if they already feared germs and becoming ill that Covid would stop them in their tracks.
Think about the number of seasoned professionals like high-tech executives or attorneys who suddenly found themselves homebound, without a job or identity. Depression can easily set in to realize that you no longer have a daily purpose or a place to go. And that you were much more expendable to your company than you thought. For some driven and hardworking people, this is enough to shake them at their core.
People are seeking professional help in droves. In most major cities, trying to find a mental health professional is like finding a needle in a haystack. They are out there. The only problem is they have more patients than they can treat.
And there is a serious problem when severely depressed or anxiety-filled people must wait for months to be seen. Can you imagine being suicidal and being told that you can get help, but it won’t be for at least a couple of months? This is a recipe for disaster and, frankly, is unacceptable.
Another susceptible group is people that are prone to depression or anxiety. The isolation involved, especially at the onset of the outbreak, was especially difficult for them. It is medically proven that we are social beings and that our brains are wired for social interaction.
We depend on each other for support, love, and a sense of belonging. Isolation can increase self-doubt, negative thoughts, and elevate or cause depression. For those that suffer from anxiety, it’s obvious that Covid and the fear surrounding it were a big trigger.
Perhaps there are statistics out there indicating the effect of Covid on our mental health system. The increase in suicides or hospitalizations for patients suffering with depression and anxiety. In most states, there is a mandatory psychiatric hold for individuals threatening or attempting suicide.
Some hospitals have a psych unit equipped to hold and treat these patients, while others must be transferred to another local facility.
Mental health professionals recently told me that their patient load has been at a maximum level for over a year. In addition to treating so many patients, there are the time-consuming Covid protocols they must perform. In some cases they are turning patients away and are having trouble finding post- treatment care for patients about to be discharged.
We can look at this as mental health or financial issue. In my opinion, it’s both. And who’s to say what triggered the depression or anxiety. Was it the financial fallout, isolation, or the fear of death and the uncertain future? Regardless of whether people had mental health issues before Covid or developed them during the pandemic, one thing is certain – our mental healthcare system was not prepared.
I pray that the next wave of mental health issues is not post-traumatic stress. This disorder affects thousands of Veterans due to the violent and traumatic experiences associated with being at war.
For some people, Covid has become their own personal war. A situation of monumental loss that they couldn’t control. There have been many losses for some; someone they loved, their job, their savings, their contact with loved ones, and their faith in the future.
There are many lessons to come out of Covid. Like other historical events, we can tell our great-grandchildren that we were there and lived to tell the story. We survived, but the question is, at what cost? For some of us, it was purely financial, and for others, it was much more.
I hope that as we tell our great-grandchildren that we tell them the truth. The truth is that it affected everyone differently. And that for some, the cost was a deeply emotional one.
How has Covid affected you and your loved ones? Have you unlocked depression or anxiety because of the pandemic? Have you tried looking for a therapist and what was the result? How are you dealing now, at the end of the second Covid year?