As May finally comes to a close, so does Mental Health Awareness Month. I feel as though in most situations, this valuable month is very importance in our society. However, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, it seems that we have forgotten to recognize, as greatly as we normally do, this month. Yet, it might be more important now, then ever before, to discuss mental health, not just for those who have diagnosed or undiagnosed mental disorders, but also for those whose mental health has been in good standing… until now. And just because typically talking about mental health is ‘taboo,’ does not mean that discussion should be ignored. Instead it should be embraced, more than ever. Getting help for mental health is important for all people.
I will come out and say this, I have gone to therapy for over five years at this point. This is a fact in my life that I will never be ashamed of. Even in moments that I have not been struggling, seeking out someone to talk to has become a sort of crutch, finding that simple just talking about my life seems to get my mind off of any sort of stress. At the same time, I also thrive on social interaction, which has been severely lacking with COVID-19 running amok. I am not alone in this scenario, yet this is not to claim that everyone shares my experience.
The pandemic has caused those who suffer from mental illness to be under even more stress. A survey by Active Minds, an organization that helps to “reduce Mental Health stigma,” found that 80% of students feel their mental health has declined due to COVID-19. The extra stressor can be extremely harmful to someone’s well-being, especially if they are already in a state of vulnerability. The feeling of isolation and the fear of the unknown adds an extra layer of anxiety and hopelessness.
However, right now it is not only those who have struggled with mental health; people who have never experienced anxiety or depression are hurting as well. My friend, a few weeks into the pandemic, mentioned something along the lines of ‘I think I’m going to need to go to therapy after this is over.’ She is someone who has never had any sort of struggle, yet now, due to the pandemic, she has become more anxious. And she is certainly not the only one. A CDC survey conducted finds that nearly a third of Americans have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression as recently as April. In comparison, in 2019 only 11% percent of Americans experienced the same symptoms.
The Mental Health Crisis in the country, which has never been taken as seriously as any sort of physical health, is continuing to destroy people of all backgrounds, affecting many more than ever before.
However, it is necessary to note that there are resources available. Taken from my own experience, therapy sessions are now being performed over Zoom, or simply over the phone. People are able to still seek help without physically going anywhere. Stay physical instead of sitting around all day. While this might seem easier said than done, once you finally move even is the movement is small, you will feel better.
Finally, be kind to yourself. Don’t be afraid to reach out to get help if you need it. There is a stigma surrounding mental health, but in reality it is okay to not be okay sometimes. And while the COVID-19 Pandemic might induce fear and anxiety, it will get better.