Health & Wellness Blog
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The Pandemic’s Impact to be Felt Throughout the U.S. for a Long Time
Posted by Scott filed under Mental Health
As early as June of 2020, concern surfaced about the U.S. healthcare system’s ability, preparedness, and resources to address the likely mental health impacts Americans were facing – not only during the public health emergency (PHE), but for the months and maybe years afterward. By summer 28% of Americans reported worsening mental health with 34% reporting a worsening emotional well-being.
Media negativity, employment insecurity, hard-hit economic sectors, quarantines and stay-at-home orders, fear for self-safety and loved ones, interruptions in education, and a myriad of other local developments place people under new and unexpected stresses. The result is mental health effects impacting life across the country.
Even though staying mostly at home, wearing a mask, and social distancing are proven as the most effective prevention, significant increases of anxiety, depression, and stress are reported, especially in areas where COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths spiked. As COVID-19 moved to new hot spots over the summer, areas experienced increases in economic hardship due to shut-downs and restrictions followed by increases in anxiety, stress and depression. Likewise, domestic violence reporting increased.
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) touches every family, directly or indirectly: 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced IPV in their lifetime. IPV is a form of domestic violence by a current or former partner or spouse, including physical and / or psychological harm. Since the start of the pandemic, IPV is on the rise in America with increases in domestic violence and sexual abuse incident reporting.
During second and subsequent waves, fatigue will become a factor as well. The unpredictability makes the outlook appear murky. The experts do not expect the lifting of stay-at-home and other restrictions to cause a reduction in the number of people in need of mental health support. The anticipation is that the numbers will increase as the infection rates go up and down through the Fall and Winter months. On the other side, expect the issues people are facing now to shift toward chronic conditions, such as depression and PTSD.
“Those that fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” (Churchill paraphrasing Santayana)
Lessons learned from past disasters can inform how to approach what is unfolding right now and lend to formation of a comprehensive plan and support. For example, about half of Hurricane Katrina survivors experienced mental illness, predominantly PTSD. There were no detailed studies after the Spanish Flu pandemic. However, survivors did report depression and sleeplessness among changes to their pre-outbreak health.
Despite an already over-stressed and under-funded behavioral health and primary care systems in America, those that find ways to collaborate and work together while leveraging tools like Telehealth and remote digital care to remain engaged with their patients can help halt this trend.
Behavioral health clinics, primary care / family medicine practices, and Health centers are positioned to identify and address mental health needs as well as IPV. Organizations, like IPV Health, work to educate and partner healthcare providers and domestic violence advocates.
If you have concerns, talk with your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
Some resources that might be helpful from the National Institute of Mental Health:
• National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-799-7233 for TTY. If you’re unable to speak safely, you can log on to thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522.