Summer is coming to an end, and life is still far different than it used to be in many parts of the country. While we’ve made gains concerning COVID-19, the number of new cases and deaths continues to rise. What’s more, many Americans are struggling with trauma, mental illness symptoms, and substance use is on the rise at an alarming rate.
Natural disasters like a public health crisis are bound to impact people’s psyche severely. Unlike a hurricane, only a handful of men and women are alive today who have lived through a global pandemic. As such, there wasn’t any way to prepare for COVID-19, nor any guidance on how to handle 6.13 million friends and neighbors contracting a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus.
These last several months have been extremely challenging for men and women from all walks of life. Those who work a recovery program have had to deal with unprecedented adversity, while having to learn to cope in isolation hasn’t been a simple endeavor. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that the crisis isn’t over yet. Hot spots continue to flare up, the latest being in the Midwest.
While many researchers are tasked with finding a cure or vaccine for the virus, others have their attention on the pandemic’s hidden impact. A few weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released some troubling data about mental and behavioral health disorders. CDC researchers found that living through a pandemic has – perhaps not unsurprisingly – had a deleterious effect on an untold number of Americans.
Anxiety, Depression, and Trauma
Many Americans are living in a heightened state of fear and anxiety. Without healthy mechanisms for coping, some are using drugs and alcohol to manage the discomfort. Moreover, symptoms of mental illness among our people have exponentially increased compared to the same time last year, according to the CDC study. So much so that many individuals (11 percent) are dealing with suicidal ideations.
Combating COVID-19 is a top-tier priority among public health experts, but there is little energy or financial resources left to address mental health. The psychological toll of the pandemic may exceed the cost of reigning in the virus.
A survey of 5,412 Americans showed that 41 percent had at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition. Of the responding pool of participants, 31 percent reported symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder. Compared to the same time last year, anxiety symptoms tripled in incidence, and the prevalence of depression symptoms quadrupled. The findings explain why 13.3 percent of respondents reported having started or increased alcohol and substance use.
Many men and women lack the tools to cope with the stress and emotions related to COVID-19. Those working in hospitals and as first-responders could be at even higher risk of trauma. After all, medical professionals are not immune to COVID-19 either; such people are an exponentially higher risk of contracting the deadly pathogen.
CDC researchers found that 26.3 percent reported symptoms of trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic. TSRDs include acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The difference between the two is that PTSD lasts for more than one month, being either a continuation of acute stress disorder or a separate condition that starts up to 6 months after the initial trauma.
National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
The CDC study is not unusually large, but it could be a prognostication of what’s to come in the coming months and years. It’s vital that state and local governments direct resources toward helping people struggling with mental illness, whether they are related to COVID-19 or not.
Given the percentage of respondents reporting that they had seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey (June 24–30, 2020) was over ten percent, public health experts should be concerned. Moreover, the CDC found that serious suicidal ideations were significantly higher among respondents aged 18–24 years (25.5%).
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10; National Suicide Prevention Week is the Monday through Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) encourages everyone to “share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.” Those who are struggling right now need to be reminded that they are not alone. You can #BeThe1To remind them on social media and beyond.
The California Mental Health Services Authority’s “Each Mind Matters” campaign is another resource you can utilize for spreading the message. There are many ways you can get involved, even if you are pressed for time. The initiative writes:
This year, in support of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week, World Suicide Prevention Day and National Recovery Month, all held in September, we are encouraging a special focus on the intersection between suicide prevention, alcohol, and drug use and efforts that foster resilience and recovery.
Those looking for mental health resources during COVID-19 can visit the Each Mind Matters Resource Center here.
California Recovery Program for Addiction and PTSD
If you are struggling with addiction and co-occurring PTSD, then you have come to the right place. Our Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospital is fully equipped to address all your mental and behavioral health needs. We also offer a program specifically for those who place their lives at risk in their country’s service.
Hemet Valley Recovery Center remains open and accepting patients; we will continue to follow the CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19. Please call us at 866-273-0868 to receive a complimentary assessment and discuss treatment options.