3 Positive Mental Health Outcomes of the COVID-19 Pandemic
Don’t spoil a good crisis. Pandemic Lessons for Better Mental Health
Source: Photo by Aakanksha Panwar on Unsplash
With the intensity of the COVID pandemic all but behind us, we finally have the opportunity to step back and take stock of the longer-term effects on mental health and mental health care, including some unintended benefits for emotional health.
The media tells us about the impact of the pandemic on lives lost, damage to supply chains, to the economy, and most of us have felt psychological impacts of the pandemic in the form of a increased stress, depression or anxiety. The cumulative effects of fear of contracting COVID, periods of isolation, unemployment or underemployment for some of us, and a sudden and dramatic change in life circumstances are real. The long COVID and lingering mental health issues will be with us for some time. Persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with COVID-19 have been documented.
However, while the adverse effects are well documented, let’s step back for a moment and note how Covid could have unexpected benefits for people who need mental health support and for mental health providers.
The destigmatization of therapy
Before COVID, when most of us had more social contact working in shared offices and socializing, people tended to keep their mental health issues extremely private. The stigma of talking about mental health has made it very difficult for people to open up about their issues. COVID caused a turnaround: Zoom team meetings and online check-ins with managers often started with “how are you coping today?” We have all felt the effects of isolation and understood that our colleagues, friends and family are also struggling emotionally. It has become normal to talk about, or at least admit, emotional difficulties.
Employers have offered helplines for anyone with increased anxiety or depression to get immediate help. The isolation of not being with people has brought out hidden struggles, de-stigmatized mental health issues, and made it easier for those who are struggling the most to seek help.
People admitting they struggled:
- Reduces the stigma associated with mental health issues.
- Normalized the idea that it is common for people going through significant life changes and stressors to need help.
- Reduction of the barrier of stigma to access to psychological or psychiatric support.
Reducing Barriers to Therapy Access
The shift from primarily in-person therapy sessions to easily accessible online therapy sessions is significantly reducing barriers to accessing therapy.
- Online therapy is more private: Fear of lack of privacy or concerns about possible career effects have prevented some people from taking advantage of in-office mental health care.
- Online therapy is more comfortable for many people: Therapy can be less threatening when accessed confidentially, from the comfort and privacy of one’s own home.
- Online therapy is more convenient: Especially for people with busy schedules or mobility issues. People who were previously unable to attend their appointments regularly have found it more convenient to access care online, resulting in fewer missed appointments and more sustained professional care.
Where fear drives proactivity
Some people who have been hospitalized in the past for mental health issues feared they would get COVID if they were hospitalized again. This concern prompted them to be more proactive in their care, seeking help sooner to avoid possible future hospitalization.
Building on the openings created by the crisis
Following the saying “never waste a good crisis,” we can take advantage of the unexpected opportunities the pandemic has created to improve mental health.
If you’re an employer or manager, keep talking about mental health and do your best to de-stigmatize requests for help.
If you are struggling yourself, take advantage of the openness of online care options to find a psychiatrist or other mental health professional, such as a psychologist, social worker or psychotherapist, who can best respond to your needs. your unique needs.
If you are a mental health care provider, consider how best to provide care to your clients. As a psychiatrist in private practice in Manhattan and as a faculty member at NYU, I see how people who would have suffered alone reach out for help. I see how my patients are better able to access care through telehealth, and I see how patients are better able to keep their appointments online, which provides greater continuity of care.
Coronavirus has prompted us all to change. We have become more open to asking for help and more creative in how we provide help. By keeping these channels open and creating new initiatives, we can take effective action to improve our mental health and that of our customers.