By: Abby Duff
Since the arrival of COVID-19 to the U.S. a year ago, the pandemic has led to a rise in unemployment, a shortage of vital resources, and an intense decrease in human contact. The lack of once guaranteed daily interactions with other people has had detrimental negative impacts on individuals’ mental health in one way or another.
There have been increased reports of excessive alcohol consumption, sleep and eating disorders, and chronic conditions such as anxiety and depression as a result of the effects of the pandemic. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Household Pulse Survey, between January 2019 and January 2021, the amount of adults reporting severe anxiety and depression disorders has skyrocketed from 11% in 2019 to 41.1% in 2021. These spikes have been particularly prevalent in individuals who have experienced job loss, communities of color, young adults, and essential workers.
In addition, the KFF reported that 48% of Non-Hispanic Black adults and 46% of Hispanic or Latino adults were more likely to report a mental health disorder in comparison to White adults, who were reported at 41%. Adults that experienced job loss and, subsequently, a source of income had increased rates of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and a higher likelihood of suicide. Essential workers have experienced increased anxiety and thoughts of suicide during the pandemic, as they are subject to conditions that could lead to contracting COVID-19 at their place of employment on any given day. Young adults whose daily routines have been turned upside down by the cease of in-person instruction have reported higher rates of anxiety and depression, as well as, substance abuse. Nearly all of these demographics are afraid to reach out and receive counseling for fear of judgment or financial restrictions.
It can be hard to talk to friends and loved ones about mental health struggles, especially when you can’t find the words to say how you’re feeling, and speaking to a specialist is usually expensive. However, there are several local organizations that offer free or at least affordable mental health services, and there are other measures that can be taken to improve one’s mental health when struggling, regardless of whether it is the result of the pandemic or a lifelong struggle. The Mercer County Division of Mental Health provides a hotline (877-294-4357) to all residents who are in need of help and do not know who to contact. The Diocese of Trenton also provides free mental health counseling to anyone who is in need. MercerResourceNet.org has a list of organizations in the local area that can help people of all demographics who are suffering.
As the spring approaches and the weather improves, please remember that even a walk in a park and a conversation with a friend (while adhering to CDC Guidelines, of course) can go a long way for someone who is struggling, so reach out to your friend and loved ones, and do not be ashamed to ask for help, you are loved.
Mental Health Resources: