Mental health concerns during a pandemic

Article

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a rise in depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. If you're struggling, you're not alone.

© MIA Studio / Adobe Stock

© MIA Studio / Adobe Stock

Mental Health Resources

Pandemics are stressful and can bring up overwhelming emotions. While necessary, guidelines such as social distancing can make people feel isolated or can intensify feelings of isolation that were already present. Coping with stressors in a healthly way can will not only put your mind at ease but may also have other positive health benefits. Below are some resources for those experiencing depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Mayo Clinic, suicide is especially tragic because it can be prevented. Symptoms and warning signs include:

  • Talking about suicide or making statements involving wanting to kill one's self
  • Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone
  • Being preoccupied with dying, death, or violence
  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol
  • Changing a normal routine, such as sleeping patterns or eating habits
  • Giving away belongings when there's no logical reason to do so

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide:

  • Call 911 immediately
  • Call a suicide hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Reach out to a close friend or loved one even if it's hard to talk about your feelings
  • Make an appointment with your doctor, healthcare provider, or mental health professional

Depression is a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest, according to the Mayo Clinic. Also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you think, feel, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability, or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia and over-sleeping
  • Tiredness or lack of energy or motivation making even small tasks difficult to perform
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • If you or someone you know exhibits signs of depression, contact your doctor or a mental health professional.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers comprehensive information on mental health, including support groups, education, and a COVID-19 guideline. They also offer the NAMI HelpLine, which can be reached Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

The CDC provides a 'Coping with Stress' guide for the pandemic, including guides on taking care of yourself, recovering from COVID-19, or ending home isolation.

Are you struggling? Do you feel overwhelmed, depressed, and pessimistic about the future? You’re not alone. Many of us are struggling with the same stressors—financial, emotional, and spiritual. Talking about them and writing about them can help you work through these emotions, whereas keeping them to yourself can overwhelm the most grounded person.

The U.S. has lost 30 million jobs since this pandemic began. The frightening thing is that it is not over yet. Just look at every industry: hospitality has been decimated; retail is struggling; restaurants are in survival mode. The list of industries goes on and on. These businesses are trying to balance reopening while complying with CDC guidelines and it’s a lot of trial and error.

Of course, the dental industry is not immune to these challenges, and this brings up many questions. Are dentists retiring instead of continuing their practices? Are dental students going to be able to practice and pay down student debt when they graduate?

If you are lucky enough to still have a job, do you have any job security? Will practices have to cut salaries or cut hours to stay afloat? If you do not have a job, how will you pay bills, have any health insurance, and keep a roof over your head? I know I am asking a lot of questions that there are no answers to. I am not trying to be all doom and gloom, but this is real, and we are going to be dealing with this situation for a long time to come. Anxiety has colored this pandemic for months and there’s no end in sight. These fears are both personal and global.

This pandemic has seen a rise in domestic violence, alcoholism, depression, and anxiety. Recently, Chris Cuomo on CNN shared his struggle with depression due to COVID-19 recovery. When a public figure shares they are going to a therapist, it lets people know that there is no shame in the struggle. Mental health has such a negative stigma when it should be treated as an illness. We do not visit, call, or text when someone has a hospitalization or is discharged from treatment for a mental health issue. We treat mental illnesses differently than we do other health concerns. Reflect on the last time a loved one, friend, or colleague received a health diagnosis. What was your reaction? When health diagnoses or hospitalizations happen, we show up. Do we do that when someone is fighting depression or anxiety?

I have watched friends struggle with the pandemic. Introverts may be doing better than extroverts who desperately wants to be with people, but the isolation is taking a toll on all of us. Zoom calls are an option, but face-to-face interaction is meaningful.

One of my friends recently collapsed and was taken to the hospital. She was kept overnight but her husband was unable to visit her due to the pandemic. I can’t imagine the fear she felt, let alone how helpless her husband must have felt when he could not be by her side going through something so scary. It’s understandable that hospitals need to be as safe as possible. But that was horrifying for them to live through. It’s unbearable when things are so out of control you cannot have your loved one by your side during an emergency.

I am not trying to depress you or make you feel more anxious. What I want to do, just like Chris Cuomo, is to talk about the elephant in the room. If you are concerned with how someone is coping during this crisis, check in on them. Ask how they are coping. What are they doing to get through this? Offer your help. If they are not eating, drinking, or seem hopeless and helpless, ask them if they are thinking about suicide. You will not be putting the idea in their mind. Instead, by asking, you may be the lifeline that they need. Do not worry about not wanting to get involved. Imagine how you would feel if you learned someone died by suicide and you didn’t intervene soon enough.

What can you do?

  • Be open to talking about mental health issues. If you are not comfortable doing this, please call a crisis line, talk to a friend, or find someone who shares your concerns.
  • Reach out to their family or friends to share your concerns. This might be a pastor, coworker, boss, teacher, etc.
  • Call 911 if you are concerned that someone has made an attempt. Getting them help ASAP is crucial.

I made a mistake at the age of 18 of not knowing what to do when a severely depressed college friend took drugs to sleep for a couple of days. It never dawned on me to call my parents, talk to our resident assistant, or contact his family. There wasn’t a suicide hotline 25 years ago. Thankfully, this friend survived and has lived a happy life. I don’t know how I would have gotten over it if he had died. That would be something I would have carried with me for the rest of my life. Do not let that happen to you. Tell someone if you have concerns. Do not get caught up in promises to not tell anyone—a life could be lost that way.

If you are having suicidial thoughts or ideation, or are experiencing depression, anxiety, or other if you have other mental health concerns, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's national hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or visit samhsa.gov. The hotline is a treatment referral and information service that is operated 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is free of charge.

Email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com to share your thoughts on this topic. Suicide is a nightmare. Do not be afraid to ask the question, “Are you thinking of killing yourself.”

Related Videos
Greater New York Dental Meeting 2023 — Interview with Shannon Carroll, RDH
Mastermind - Episode 32 -  Navigating the Dental World Post-Graduation
Mastermind - Episode 31 - Retaining Dental Staff
Mastermind - Episode 30 - Tackling Today's Tough Challenges
AHDA23 Annual Conference in 4 Minutes
Mastermind - Episode 29 - Addressing Racial Disparities in Hiring at Dental Practices
Mastermind - Episode 28 - How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Dentistry
Mastermind - Episode 27 - Ethical Dilemmas in the Dental Practice
Mastermind - Episode 26 - Let's Talk Money
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.