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COVID-19's Impact on Mental Health

Have you been feeling more and more stressed out by the pandemic as time goes on? You’re not alone.

This pandemic has had a dramatic toll on everyone’s mental health. It’s been especially hard on the working poor and others who live in poverty, who were already stressed by their economic position and many of whom work essential jobs. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more American’s have experienced symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma- or stressor-related disorder, suicidal ideation, thoughts of suicide and increased substance use to deal with the stress.

The CDC found that “Mental health conditions are disproportionately affecting specific populations, especially young adults, Hispanic persons, black persons, essential workers, unpaid caregivers for adults, and those receiving treatment for preexisting psychiatric conditions.” Unpaid caregivers for adults, especially those caring for an elderly parent, are experiencing significant increases in mental health problems.

And the data shows there will continue to be an increase in mental health conditions the longer the pandemic continues. KFF surveyed adults in March and found that 32% reported having negative life impacts due to stress and worry. That number increased to 53% by July and is expected to continue to increase as the disease spreads. “Many adults are also reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and wellbeing, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over the coronavirus."

Isolation and loneliness have been especially widespread issues during the pandemic, which has made state governments issue stay-at-home mandates and put many people at home to work. And among the uncertainty of the pandemic, many have lost their jobs. KFF says “Research shows that job loss is associated with increased depression, anxiety, distress, and low self-esteem and may lead to higher rates of substance use disorder and suicide....and lower income people report higher rates of major negative mental health impacts compared to higher income people.”

Many individuals have turned to substance use to cope with the overwhelming stress and anxiety of these uncertain times. This has both increased the need for mental health and substance use services, but also spotlighted the lack of resources available.

Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on mental health nationwide. As a vaccine is developed and distributed, the need for mental health and substance use services to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic will be essential.

All of the NC Community Action network’s clients are low-income individuals, many of which have been more harshly affected by the pandemic than their higher income counterparts. That’s why we build partnerships with local substance use and mental health services to ensure that everyone can have access to the care they need, regardless of their ability to pay.

Find help at Mental Health America or CDC’s list of hotlines or reach out to your local agency for help.

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