mental health written with Scrabble letters

In the beginning, the pandemic hit us hard in various directions. Isolation, unemployment, and various other difficulties have had a detrimental effect on mental health. Nonetheless, here we are a year later. How are we faring in the face of adversity?

Let’s take a look at 2020.

For this blog, we will refer to data from the US and the UK, as there hasn’t been much research on the impact of the pandemic on mental health globally, which is already a sign of mental health not being deemed important all around the world.

A wide March 2020 report saw several worrisome signs in the United States. One of its key findings was that citizens consumed in March more alcohol. A large number of the respondents experienced different health issues, such as fatigue, loss of stamina, difficulty concentrating, and falling asleep. One out of four people was experiencing low energy. 

A variety of other research done in the UK saw similar findings. One out of four people participating in the research said their anxiety increased during the lockdown. Moreover, a third of participants met the diagnosis of generalized or situational depression.

Girl sitting on a chair with her back turned

The Bad: Fear and loneliness

Psychiatrist Marchenella Rietschel at the Central Institute for Mental Health in Germany believes the depression in the pandemic results from people’s apprehension of family conflict, increased social anxiety, and increased family strain due to quarantine, as well as in part to sickness. The epidemiologic studies and surveys undertaken so far suggest that younger individuals are more susceptible to a rise in psychological distress in the pandemic. Often, it is shown that young adults and women with newly identified mental illnesses are more likely to suffer from disorders.

The Bad: Stigmatization

It is more difficult for people newly released from quarantine to recover from their exclusion. Many of them establish mixed feelings. No one’s past experiences would be just the same as they leave quarantine. People who recently healed may have to distance themselves from families, parents, friends, and other people in the community and ensure their wellbeing remains secure.

"mental health matters" t-shirt

The Good: More time to look after yourself

During the height of the lockdowns, a lot of people started taking care of their well-being more. A lot of people found it beneficial to consider it a change of time, even though they didn’t really plan it for themselves. People prioritize looking after themselves. Even now, there are several different approaches one person could take. For example, one could read more, spend more time exercising, learn better ways to relax, search the internet for new information, research new coping methods, discover new ideas, or seek therapy if needed. One can see this as an opportunity to be creative, not a chore.

The Good: Deeper connections

As the pandemic continued, people started valuing more and more the importance of human connection and interaction. Even though interactions had to happen virtually, it felt that there was a surge of togetherness, of solidarity. People were, and still are, there for each other, in a broader meaning of the word than before.

Let’s take a look at 2021

Scientists are analyzing massive databases to determine the effect of pandemic prevention interventions on people’s mental wellbeing. While the whole picture has not been painted yet, we can see the early contours — and the overall first impression is grim.

Scientists see a worldwide “surge” in depression. According to a December 2020 U.S. Census Bureau poll, 42 percent of citizens in the world experienced anxiety or depression that month. This was a significant rise compared to last year.

The image seems to be the same all over the world. For example, one of the latest Nature articles reports an increase in depression rates among U.K. adults in June 2020, relative to pre-pandemic levels. 

What’s next?

The truth is no one can predict what’s in store for the world moving forward. What we, as young people, ought to do is stay resilient in the face of challenges and be kind to ourselves and those around us. 

balloons with smiley faces

Celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month by devoting a few minutes to yourself each day. Focus on your emotional wellbeing, whether it takes five minutes or an hour. Speak out and share why you’re fighting. Whether you use social media or simply speak with friends, family or colleagues – mark Mental Health Awareness Week 2021 by telling those around you why you’ve joined the fight for mental health and help create a movement for change. You are not alone. 

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