How the Pandemic Has Shaped America’s Mental Health Crisis

A New Lens

As we slowly move towards regaining the normalcy our lives once had before the COVID-19 pandemic, I am sure we have all felt a sense of relief and anticipation for what is to come. At the height of the pandemic, which called on us to socially distance, wear face coverings, and change the ways in which we worked and took care of our children, it seems intuitive to think that the pandemic worsened America’s mental health crisis. Although the number of people seeking professional help for depression, anxiety, relationship issues, etc., has greatly increased, research suggests that the pandemic has simply acted as a “catalyst” to these preexisting issues and the insufficient number of mental health professionals across the nation. If anything, the pandemic has shown the importance of mental health- both for individuals and communities, normalized seeking help, and has prompted calls to action for increased access to these services.

Why Has Anxiety Dramatically Increased?

Despite the new perspectives the pandemic has brought, we cannot minimize the impact it has had on our nation’s mental health. The pandemic has been the first time most of us have ever struggled with prolonged stress that affected every aspect our lives, and our biggest coping mechanism has unfortunately become our cell phones. This increase in anxiety has specifically impacted women, marginalized groups, people aged 18-34, people who have children younger than 5 years old, and those who face poverty or preexisting mental health conditions.  Research has pinpointed three of the biggest reasons for this increase in anxiety.

  1. Persistent unpredictability which forces us to constantly adapt
  2. Increased polarization in the media, politics, and across communities
  3. Decreased social connection: inadequate support and reduced exposure to ideas and people who differ from us

What Can We Do Moving Forward?

Researchers have identified “Intolerance of Uncertainty” as one of the biggest risk factors for developing mental health conditions. Now more than ever, resilience seems to be the most important skill we can grow and practice to protect ourselves from the unpredictability the last few years have brought. If we do not turn towards accepting uncertainty and more positive ways of thinking and coping, we are more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and poor coping mechanisms, such as disengaging, sleeping, or alcohol and drugs.

A few of the most effective ways of becoming more resilient include:

  1. Becoming “realistically optimistic”: view the problems you face realistically but choose to focus on the hopeful and positive aspects or outcomes
  2. Leaving your comfort zone: challenge yourself to try new experiences, such as introducing yourself to someone new at every event you have coming up
  3. Finding a purpose/ passion: you can do this through volunteering, finding a new hobby or advocating for a social issue that is important to you. Your “purpose” may be aspects of your life that you often overlook, such as taking care of an aging parent
  4. Leaning into your network of friends and family: continue to strengthen the relationships that are important to you

We hope you implement some of these skills in your life and wish you the best of luck in your Resiliency Journey! If you would like to research the topics discussed more thoroughly, we recommend checking out the links below

Leave a Comment