At the beginning of the pandemic, many people’s mental health suffered; people were stressed, traumatized, and more likely to use substances to cope. A study published last month aimed to figure out whether this initial response has lessened over time or remained consistent.
Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 Continue After Initial Trauma
The study survey—given from August 28th to September 6th, 2020—screened for symptoms of anxiety and depression, suicidal ideation, COVID-19 related trauma disorders, and substance use disorders. Some participants had completed surveys in April or June, and others were first-time responders.
Among those who were contacted again after completing an initial survey, symptoms didn’t change much. Overall, 33% of survey responders reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, nearly 12% said they’d seriously considered suicide in August, almost 30% reported symptoms of a COVID-19-related trauma disorder, and over 15% reported increased substance use.
These numbers are significantly higher than in years before the pandemic. For instance, in 2019, 6.5% of people reported symptoms of depression and a little over 8% reported symptoms of anxiety.
The study also found that particular groups experienced more adverse mental health symptoms than others. Symptoms were higher among “respondents with disabilities or insomnia symptoms vs those without, caregivers for adults vs non-caregivers, essential workers and unemployed respondents vs nonessential workers, and respondents who were lesbian, gay, or bisexual vs heterosexual.”
Surprisingly, although we’ve heard from the beginning that COVID-19 is more severe for older adults, adverse symptoms were higher among adults younger than 65 than older.
Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment in Times of Crisis
Care for mental health and addiction are always important, but this study shows us the heightened need for it in times of collective trauma. While more and more people get vaccinated—and we have the wonderful news that everyone who wants a vaccine may be able to get one by May—we’re starting to imagine reentering the world.
This is great, but the mental health effects of COVID-19 won’t disappear overnight—even when things feel more normal. Just as mental health struggles didn’t go away once we became accustomed to life in a pandemic, people may be dealing with the aftereffects of this year for some time.
As the study authors put it, “Evidence of sustained adverse mental health symptoms among more than 5,000 community-dwelling US adults highlights the need to promote preventive behaviors, expand mental health care access, and integrate medical and behavioral health services to mitigate the mental health effects of COVID-19.”
If you are struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you process traumas and practicing coping skills so you can build a life in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.