Mental Health in Extraordinary Times

by William McEwen
Mental Health and Business Graphic

World Mental Health Day is October 10 and observed all month long to raise awareness of mental health issues and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health. The World Health Organization, sponsor of World Mental Health Day, provides these facts:

  • Close to one billion people have a mental disorder. Anyone, anywhere can be affected.
  • One in every 100 deaths is by suicide. It is the fourth leading cause of death for people aged 15-29 years.
  • Relatively few people around the world have access to quality mental health services.
  • Some of the most common mental health conditions, depression and anxiety, can be treated with talking therapies, medication, or a combination of these.

Mental Health vs. Covid

While the clinical trials industry was engaged a full-force attack on the virus, Covid and lockdowns were also taking a toll on mental health. The degree of impact is not yet fully known.

A year ago, the World Health Organization reported that mental health services had been disrupted or halted in 93 percent of countries.

We don’t fully know the impact of Covid on mental health, but it could affect half of the population of the world. Self-reporting surveys, such as the UK COVID-19 Social Survey, find that depression and anxiety symptoms have decreased this year but are still with us – rates are now similar to early autumn 2000 levels.

Forty-five percent of respondents in the Kaiser Family Foundation’s April 2020 poll said Covid-related worry and stress had a negative impact on their mental health. About a year later, in March 2021, it was 47 percent. This tells us that Covid, as of this spring, continued to significantly affect mental health.

Despite these findings, is there reason for hope? The CDC reports U.S. death rates by suicide have remained steady or even fallen during the pandemic.  This statistic surprised me, and it suggests that despite restrictions and lack of resources, people found ways to cope with the mental health aspects of Covid.

Mental health remedies range from the simple to the scientific – finding a friend to talk to, psychotherapy with a trained professional, and thanks to clinical trials, complex medicines. Help is out there.

Spreading important information through campaigns like World Mental Health Day plays an important role in changing perceptions. This includes removing the stigma of acknowledging mental issues and seeking help. You can learn more about mental health and ways to help others here.

You can read a therapist’s perspective on mental health in the early days of Covid here.

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