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Mental health and COVID-19

  • 4 min read

The Coronavirus (COVID-19), came at us seemingly out of nowhere. Much has changed in our lives. And very quickly. Jobs have been lost. Many ceremonies, celebrations, conferences, etc. have been cancelled, or at least interrupted. Even in our daily life, the inability to gather with a group of friends is disappointing and requires discipline to stay away. It also affects or emotional and mental health.

COVID-19 has quite literally come into our lives like a hurricane and left a path of (ongoing) uncertainty. While we’re all trying to adjust to what is being called our new normal, many are struggling to figure out what to do next. We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetime.

Outbreaks of any kind create stress

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stress during an outbreak, such as COVID-19, brings on a number of health and behavioral changes. You may experience:

  • Fear and worry about your health and that of your family members
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of mental health problems
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

The CDC recommends using these techniques to help reduce

your stress about COVID-19:

  • Take a break from taking in too much information about COVID-19
  • Take deep breaths, stretch or meditate
  • Eat well-balanced, healthy meals
  • Get a good night’s rest
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Plan time in your schedule to unwind – do something you enjoy
  • Connect with others – talk with others about how you’re feeling

As most people know, depression and anxiety are common mental health disorders. They are the leading causes of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Be aware of changes in the behavior or mood of close friends and family. The unexpected and unwanted changes brought on by COVID-19 may affect some people more profoundly than others.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America indicates that a major depressive episode may include a persistent sad, anxious or empty mood. Some people experience feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. You may notice that your loved one has simply lost interest in their normal hobbies or activities. Be watchful for these symptoms as well:

  • Decreased energy, fatigue or feeling slowed down
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening or oversleeping
  • Low appetite and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment such as headaches, digestive disorders and pain for which no cause can be found

How you can help someone who is depressed or struggling with anxiety:

Well-intentioned family members and friends often think that someone can talk themselves out of depression. How often have we heard someone say “just snap out of it!” to someone struggling with an affective or stress-related issue?

There are things you should and shouldn’t do when trying to help a loved one who may be struggling with depression.

What to do when trying to support someone with anxiety or depression:

  • Be empathetic, understanding and listen carefully.
  • If this is a first-time event, help dig up resources for them.
  • Encourage them to call their primary care physician or therapist.
  • If necessary, offer to help them make the call to a doctor.
  • Offer hope, say things like, ‘We’ll get through this.’
  • Let them know it’s okay to get help; it’s a smart thing to do.

What you shouldn’t do when talking to someone who needs help:

  • Don’t say, ‘You’ll get over it. It’s not a big deal.’
  • Don’t say, ‘It could be worse.’
  • Don’t say, ‘Get up tomorrow morning with a new attitude.’
  • Don’t minimize what they’re experiencing.

Don’t assume their depression will simply go

away over time.

Because of the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic, millions of Americans covered through Medicare can now access behavioral or mental health services through telehealth appointments. Many mental health resources are now available via your phone. Focused Family Services is one of those agencies that is offering telehealth services to assist you, while also ensuring your safety in the comfort of your own home.


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