It hits differently when you have to suffer from mental health issues because it’s a problem no one wants for themselves, but one that happens unintentionally. Just like what we have learned from plaintiffs of the Paragard lawsuits, physical and mental pain can also lead to emotional torture that extends its devastating effects to the families and loved ones of the person who’s mentally troubled.
We thought at one point that it couldn’t get worse, but COVID-19 happened. Businesses closed down, many people went jobless, and visiting friends and families became more difficult. While the whole world struggles to deal with the losses and disruptions caused by the pandemic, there is soaring evidence that another wave of disorders linked to mental health and substance abuse is on the rise.
The Mental Health Wave
Authors Dr. Charles Marmar, Dr. Glenn Saxe, and Dr. Naomi Simon, all from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, wrote, “The devastation is imminent, attributable to mental health consequences of COVID-19,” in their article published in the medical journal JAMA.
“The magnitude of this mental health wave is likely to overwhelm the already frayed mental health system, leading to access problems, particularly for the most vulnerable persons.”
The researchers recognized that the rise in people suffering from mental health problems during the pandemic will eventually lead to bigger challenges, like an increase in suicide rates and drug overdoses, in which the more vulnerable group of people will be disproportionately affected: Black and Hispanic people, the working class, older adults, and health care workers.
The authors also expressed their utmost concern on the usual grief and distress people commonly experience changing into extended grief and major depressive disorder along with symptoms and episodes of posttraumatic health disorder.
With the ongoing travel bans, harsher restrictions on public places, and numerous deaths caused by the pandemic, more people are experiencing emotional pain, intense longing for a deceased loved one, loneliness, loss of motivation in life, difficulty reengaging in daily activities, looking at life as if it is meaningless, and increased suicidal thoughts. These conditions can also become even worse with substance abuse.
Prolonged grief affects around 10% of bereaved people, which is likely an underestimation for pandemic-related deaths, as each loss leaves an average of nine family members grieving. A staggering amount of 2 million bereaved individuals are now suffering from the loss of a loved one, and as cases continue to rise, more people are projected to experience the profoundly negative effects of a covid-19 death in their mental health.
Health care workers and other personnel on the front line are also of particular concern to the authors for the psychological risks they continue to face, stating that supporting these professionals and other essential workforce is of the utmost importance and is a crucial move to “manage recurrent waves of the pandemic.”
Numbers Don’t Lie
A survey data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more Americans are suffering from pandemic-related mental health problems as compared to people from other countries.
Almost 41% of the respondents are battling mental health issues related to the coronavirus. Some of the issues they cited are not only the pandemic itself, but they also struggle with the methods used to contain it, like the social distancing rules and the stay-at-home orders.
The same percentage of people has reported to have suffered from one or more mental or behavioral health conditions, including suicidal thoughts, depressive episodes, and substance abuse.
The figures this year have tripled as compared to the number of Americans who reported anxiety symptoms last year, at this same season, the CDC reported.
There is Still a Long Way to Go
Vaccines are now available in the U.S., giving people hope that the pandemic might soon be defeated, but even after the pandemic is long gone, the effects that it had and will continue to have on people might last for a lifetime. Losing a family member is never easy, and these repercussions are something that no scientific discovery can put an end to.
When dealing with mental health problems, the United States still has a long way to go. The NYU authors cited possible solutions that will help ease the situation of people suffering from mental instability in the midst of the pandemic.
According to them, transitioning to a better mental health system will require an increase in funds for mental health, extensive screening to know who are the most vulnerable, more health professionals who are trained to give counsel and to treat people suffering from prolonged grief, traumatic stress, depression, and substance abuse. There is also a need to focus on the bereaved families by helping them cope with the tragedy of losing a loved one.