As the world enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unknown of what the omicron variant brings, we continue on a seemingly endless rollercoaster ride of unpredictability in an “epidemic” of loneliness, according to the New York Times.
Before the pandemic was in full swing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated about one in five adults lived with a mental illness, but this number has greatly increased during the pandemic, with daily infection rates and reductions in human mobility as two indicators associated with an increased prevalence of a major depressive disorder and anxiety, according to a recent Lancet report.
But the next generation is also suffering: “I am worried about our children,” said U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy.
“[Our] kids have been struggling for a long time, even for this pandemic.”
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The CDC noted a 50.6% increase in emergency department visits for attempted suicide among girls ages 12 to 17 from February 21 to March 20, 2021, compared to the same period last year, prompting the surgeon general to issue an advisory to bring immediate attention to this “national emergency” due to the pandemic.
The Times noted people’s resilience is slowly fading as COVID-19 continues to ping-pong the world from schools opening to promptly closing, travel restrictions lifted only to be reinstated, the constant threat of lockdowns, the significant loss of human life, and the false hopes of the end of the pandemic in sight.
Complicating the situation, the CDC noted some psychiatric disorders, which can stem from the pandemic, can actually lead to COVID-19.
“Having mood disorders, including depression, and schizophrenia spectrum disorders can make you more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19,” the CDC said.
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Even though immense scientific progress has been made in battling the virus as almost 47% of the world is now vaccinated with plunging death rates, people still don’t feel in control, which is the pandemic paradox, according to the Times.
Scientists reviewed all the known literature on the impact of COVID-19 on adult mental health in the UK this summer, finding a spike in cases with anxiety and depression after the first lockdown, but discovered those who remained connected with family and friends or those who had a pet, experienced better mental health consequences.
The paper added people who practiced yoga or performed physical exercise noted an overall improvement in mental health during the lockdown period, concluding maintaining a healthy lifestyle and strengthening social networks are the key to good mental health during pandemics.
The New England Journal of Medicine also noted as the pandemic creates insecurity, conflicting messages, isolation and stigma associated with those infected, the effects can often translate into substance abuse, people refusing to get vaccinated, and a range of emotional reactions that can lead to psychiatric disorders, such as depression.
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The journal added, “Extensive research in disaster mental health has established that emotional distress is ubiquitous in affected populations — a finding certain to be echoed in populations affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Click here for CDC tips to cope with stress from the pandemic.
If you feel you’re in a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to get immediate help.