Struggling with Mental Health Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis? You’re Not Alone. So Why is This Happening?

This post was written by Kevin Cervantes, third year medical student at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.

If you asked me, “Hey, what do you think of COVID-19?” early March of 2020, I would have told you that it is nothing to fear and in no way would affect most of our lives. One week later, you have the United States calling a state of emergency, public facilities being shut down, and people hoarding toilet paper. Plus, you are constantly being told to voluntarily self-isolate yourself. Since then, I found myself in a constant state of disbelief. I still can’t believe this is real life.

You may have found yourself feeling a bit more down than usual. In fact, an article from the Washington Post reports that “nearly half of the people in the United States feel the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a survey” by the Kaiser Family Foundation. So why is this happening? I came up with a few possible reasons; maybe you can relate to one or more than one of these.

Our Own Health

  • Since COVID-19 is a relatively new virus, there are still many unknowns on how it is spread, what can it do to the human body, etc. All these unknowns may lead to fear and more feelings of anxiety. 
  • The CDC reports that people such as older individuals and people who have other health conditions are more at risk if they acquire the disease. However, it seems like everyday there are articles reporting that the circle of risk is even broader than that (such as this article reporting that the younger individuals are in danger as well). Who is right? What information can we trust?
    • I recommend to look at my other blog post regarding reputable information here. 
  • The CDC also reports the symptoms of COVID-19. And, this also can cause anxiety. Maybe you coughed a few times a while ago. Have you been feeling hot? Breathing is suddenly harder? “Is this anxiety, or could I be having COVID-19?!” 
    • I highly recommend this notice from the CDC if you have these feelings right now.

Our Loved Ones’ Health

  • You probably know of a loved-one in the CDC’s higher risk pool or someone in general you don’t want to see have the disease. Maybe you even know of someone with COVID-19. We may want to then do everything we can to help them stay healthy, yet this fear of the unknown may also make us feel powerless, leading to anxiety.

Despair for a Progressing Pandemic

  • It feels that each passing day, things are getting worse and worse. The numbers of cases are just keep increasing, and so we can feel hopeless that even despite our efforts to contain this virus, nothing is going to change.
    • It’s easy to look at the number of confirmed cases, but don’t forget to look at the trending upward number of recovered cases as well.

The “Survival Culture”

  • Does the sound of a cough now strike a new sense of fear in you? Same. We of course do not want to get COVID-19, so we try to do everything to protect ourselves. 
  • We see other people hoarding and you worry if you should do the same. You self-isolate to keep you and your loved-ones safe. We are limited to what we can do to help others in fear of spreading the disease even more.
  • There was such an abrupt change from what is normal to a world filled with fear, and it makes sense to feel overwhelmed.

Financial Security

  • With the closure of public facilities restaurants, bars, schools, gyms, etc. many people, and maybe even you, are finding themselves without an income to pay for basic needs such as rent, food, and supplies.
    • You don’t have to go through this alone, check out mycovidresponse.org for more information as to what resources we have in our local Oakland County Community.

Social Withdrawal and Loneliness

  • With the sudden onset of voluntary home self-quarantine, many of us can feel literally separated from our friends and loved-ones.
    • If you feel the same, I highly recommend that you read Niki Khajeh’s blog post on how you can handle such feelings.

By gaining insight into our own mental health, we can be better in finding solutions in terms of how we to protect it.

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