The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on people’s mental health worldwide, causing isolation, anxiety, and grief. In today’s post-pandemic world, mental health is on many people’s minds. It’s essential to understand the state of mental health in post-pandemic America in order to know what to do moving forward.
Stress Associated With the Pandemic
Many stressors emerged during the pandemic. The paralyzing fears of infection, suffering, and death for oneself and loved ones plagued many of our minds for years. Many people experienced grief from losing a loved one to the virus and financial worries after losing their jobs or reducing their hours.
Impact on Children and Teenagers
A tragic reality is that the second leading cause of death among 10 to 14-year-olds is suicide, according to the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI). It’s easy to underestimate the emotional distress children and teenagers experience, but they are just as likely to struggle mentally as adults are. They might not always be able to voice it, but disruptive times like a pandemic can profoundly affect their overall well-being. Having experienced social isolation, losing in-person schooling, experiencing disruptions in their routines, and heightened stress, many young people are still recovering from how the pandemic impacted their early years.
Mental Health in the Elderly Population
The elderly population suffered immensely during the lockdowns. They were among the most vulnerable groups to catching the virus, which meant isolating them from as many people as possible. For many, this meant spending extended periods alone and depending on friends and family to deliver food and necessary supplies.
The Pandemic and Elder Abuse
Usually, family and loved ones can intervene if they believe that someone is mistreating an older person who needs assistance. That extra layer of protection went away during the pandemic, as there were chunks of time when nobody could leave their homes. This has resulted in trauma from abuse and mistreatment, from which the elderly population is still recovering.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, at least 10% of adults 65 and older will experience some form of elder abuse in a year. Abuse causes physical and mental trauma, and while we can’t fix what’s happened, we can take steps to prevent these things from occurring. Through open communication, monitoring caregiver interactions, and taking an active role in an elderly person’s care, it’s possible to help them work through these scars from the past and help them move forward.
Accessibility of Care
Whether you lived with mental illness before the pandemic or it triggered your condition, you may not have received the needed support. Many therapists and psychiatrists offered virtual appointments during social distancing, but that was often for existing clients. Unfortunately, navigating the world of mental health care while suffering from mental illness can be overwhelming and often serve as a deterrent.
According to the CDC, in 2019, only 19.2% of adults in the U.S. received mental health treatment in the past 12 months. The statistic breaks down to 15.8% who needed prescription medicine and 9.5% who received counseling or therapy. That number dropped significantly during the pandemic; even today, many people aren’t getting the help they need.
Addressing the Situation
To address mental health in today’s America, raising awareness and destigmatizing mental illness is important. Open conversations can help break down barriers and encourage individuals to seek help without shame or fear. Additionally, investments in mental health infrastructure, such as increasing funding for research, treatment facilities, and qualified professionals, are crucial.
Mental health in post-pandemic America is a conversation that needs to be discussed. Everyone was affected mentally by the pandemic, and it’s no surprise that many of us are now struggling emotionally due to such a distressing time. We can work towards a healthier and more resilient future by prioritizing mental health.
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