The COVID-19 pandemic has been a central focus in almost everyone’s lives for well over a year. It often seems like information and advice changes on a daily basis. We are all flooded with news on television, social media, and even from friends and family.
The uncertainty and overwhelming statistics surrounding the pandemic are enough to make anyone feel scared. But the addition of having to stay at home, experience quarantining, and socially distance from friends and family made matters even worse.
There have already been several studies done on the mental health effects of the pandemic. But, we’ll undoubtedly be learning more about the long-term effects for years to come. In a way, it’s another type of pandemic, all on its own.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of those long-term mental effects, and what they’ll look like in the future.
A Sense of Uncertainty
Because things have changed so often throughout the pandemic, it has left people with an underlying sense of uncertainty. Things like social media rarely help matters—it was sometimes hard to know what was real information and what wasn’t.
The uncertainty stems from more than the pandemic itself. People were let go from their jobs. Kids couldn’t attend school in person and are now returning amidst debates about how to keep them safe. Extracurricular activities were canceled and life as we know it changed drastically.
Now, after things began to open back up, we are facing a new challenge with the Delta variant. Many people are talking about a “new normal”. Some are returning to wearing masks wherever they go or staying home. Others are worried about the potential long-term side effects of vaccinations.
The pandemic may feel like it has lasted forever. But so much has happened in just over a year that the uncertainty it has caused can lead to a sense of uneasiness and anxiety for years.
A Gap in Mental Health Care
Another cause for long-term concern is the lack of mental health care in the U.S. Because of the surge in anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness during the pandemic, the demand for mental health treatment skyrocketed.
Unfortunately, there have been disparities all over. Some people simply don’t have the access they need to receive adequate treatment. There aren’t enough mental health care professionals to effectively treat everyone right now, and many experts believe that’s a problem that will continue for years to come.
Telehealth provided a bit of relief in this area. It made mental health care more accessible to those who couldn’t see someone in person. It’s likely telehealth services are here to stay. But, it still doesn’t completely make up for the gap.
The Effect on Children
Children and teenagers are especially susceptible to mental health conditions caused by traumatic events or stressful experiences. The pandemic is clearly no exception.
While kids are resilient, this pandemic was unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. It turned their entire world upside down. From not being able to go to school to not seeing their friends in person, the pandemic took a toll.
For many kids, things like sports, music, and art were their biggest outlets and ways to alleviate stress. Without those activities, many kids and teens struggled to find a purpose and fell into depression.
Unfortunately, the pandemic saw a rise in suicide rates among kids and teens, as well as more calls into the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Again, while things are getting back to normal, the lasting effects of the pandemic may take the biggest toll on our younger generations for many years.
The long-term mental health effects will make COVID-19 a household subject for years, even after the pandemic has subsided. It is bringing the importance of mental health care to the forefront, so it may end up doing some good for the mental health community. For now, though, it’s likely we will see a negative impact for a very long time.
If you are struggling with the impact of COVID-19, feel free to contact me.
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