The coronavirus is an invisible enemy that countries all over the world are fighting. But as governments and health organizations focus the battle on virology, individuals sheltering at home are fighting a different invisible foe as well: mental health complications.
While spending endless time watching Netflix in our sweatpants may sound like fun on the surface, anxiety over job loss, our family’s health, and the day-to-day uncertainty of a global pandemic can take its toll on our emotional well-being. Here’s more on the factors that have contributed to a crisis of mental health amid a pandemic of physical health.
One of the earliest consequences of COVID-19 was the closure of restaurants, bars, and shopping centers that are not conducive to social-distancing. Millions of people around the world in those business sectors either lost a job or were furloughed indefinitely as their workplaces closed the doors.
Soon, offices were forced to close as well, and most workers who could not do their jobs remotely found themselves without a paycheck or required to challenge the health Gods. As the economy responded to the lockdowns, many more companies were forced to downsize, causing massive lay-offs. All of this is ripe for producing widespread stress and anxiety.
Bills Add Up
With the stress of job loss comes the stress about paying rent and other bills. While some states have put a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments, it doesn’t alleviate the mounting debt. After all, how can people expect to postpone three, four, or even five months of rent or mortgage if they don’t have a job? Whether it is a postponed rent payment or a rent strike, as some have advocated, the ripple effect of this affects landlords (who are people too), banks, and ultimately the entire economic system.
Am I Going to Get Sick?
Financial woes aside, there are also a host of social and health-related stressors. It’s bad enough that people are scraping together what little money they have to buy food and necessities. But now people fear simply going outside. What happens if you get sick? Do you have dependable health insurance? What about your family? Would they be able to take care of themselves if you were in quarantine or in the hospital for weeks? Such open-ended questions are enough to create anxiety.
Essential Worker Worries
Even for those fortunate enough to still have a job, all don’t have the luxury of working from home. Essential workers have the added stress of stepping into harm’s way when they do their job. Frontline medical workers are exposed to the coronavirus for long, extended hours, but they’re not the only ones facing the virus head-on. Public transit employees, delivery people, warehouse workers, and emergency-response officers all face the threat of contraction each day, which yields anxiety in them and for their loved ones.
The Stress of Social Isolation
Finally, social isolation itself is a stressor. Humans are, by evolution, social creatures. It can be difficult to cope with being alone in a house for days without human interaction. Those with pre-existing mental health conditions, like depression, addiction, or clinical anxiety, face an uphill battle if they are weathering the crisis alone. Moreover, authorities have noted an uptick in reports of domestic violence since the start of lockdown orders, since some have been forced to isolate with an abusive partner.
Time to Reach Out
It’s clear that the viral pandemic is not the only health crisis afflicting the world right now. But it’s more important now than ever to reach out for help if you’re struggling with mental illness or even a longer-than-usual bout of anxiety. Call a friend or a loved one to talk, and be honest with them. You are not alone in feeling this way.
There are also a variety of resources at your disposal if you’d like help managing your mental health. Here are just a few:
- Text HOME to 741741 to be connected to a crisis counselor over text message, through the Crisis Text Line.
- Consider BetterHelp to connect with an online counselor or therapist at an affordable rate.
- Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
You are not alone in this fight.