The mental health impact of COVID-19 has been a topic of discussion since the earliest days of quarantine. It was feared and assumed that people who were already prone to depression and/or anxiety would be put at further risk. But as the days and weeks turned into months, it became clear that the impact on our mental health as a nation would be much broader and deeper. Fear and uncertainty, social isolation, economic upheaval, and the trauma felt by those directly impacted by the virus have all left the country shaken.
While we’re most certainly looking forward to a post-pandemic world, a world that we hope will look “normal” once again, the reality is the stress and trauma of the past year will linger long after our world starts to open up again. Most mental health experts agree that, to some degree or another, we’re all going to experience some type of post-COVID anxiety similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
So yes, at long last, we’ll be able to visit with elderly family members, but we’ll mourn the time we’ve lost with them. Our children will shift back to in-class learning, but the isolation and disruptions of the past year will no doubt have a formative impact on their young lives. We’ve been at war with this virus, hiding in our bunkers, learning to live with our fears, suffering job losses and grieving at the devastation we’ve endured as a country. To think that we’ll quickly bounce back from this experience is, at best, naïve.
While the long-term impact of COVID on our mental health is speculative at this point, we certainly know from past traumas that the lasting effects are real. For example, more than 14 years after the September 11 attacks, New York residents and rescue workers were still experiencing symptoms of PTSD and depression at rates much higher than comparable populations (almost 3x the rate of PTSD and nearly double the rate of depression).
According to the US Census Bureau, more than 42% of people surveyed in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression which is an increase from 11% the previous year. As we move into a post-COVID world, those numbers aren’t going to just magically go away. The effects of trauma, for some people as significant as PTSD, are certain to impact all areas of people’s lives. And with the shift back to something approximating normal, there will be new fears as well as the existing ones. How effective is the vaccine? What about new virus strains? How safe is it if the people I encounter haven’t been vaccinated? How are my kids going to transition back after a year of disruptions? Will I ever be comfortable in a crowded space again?
Now, more than ever, our nation is in need of mental health
support. And mental health professionals are looking for new and innovative
ways to manage the potential influx of new patients. That’s where Mental Health
Technologies can play an important role. MHT’s app offers mental health
practitioners the tools they need to streamline screenings, apply objective
evaluations and improve efficacy of treatment. And in a post-COVID world, we
could all use a little support.