The Impact of Coronavirus on Mental Health

Some simple ways to cope with the stress of the coronavirus.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Some simple ways to cope with the stress of the coronavirus.

Katie Buelt, Staff writer

As coronavirus cases continue to climb nationwide, the physical impacts of the disease on just about every aspect of society couldn’t be clearer. However, the mental health repercussions of a global pandemic can be just as dangerous, despite not being as obvious as a cough or fever. According to the Washington Post, 45 percent of surveyed adults say coronavirus has negatively affected their mental health, with around one in five reporting a “major” impact. The numbers are even higher among African American and Hispanic adults, among whom coronavirus cases are disproportionately high. Despite these staggering statistics, health experts say this is to be expected, given the circumstances. “It’s not surprising,” said clinical psychologist Kathy HoganBruen, “given all the other huge numbers surrounding the pandemic in terms of joblessness, and social distancing, which can equal social isolation.”

Beyond the obvious fear of getting infected, the various indirect consequences of the pandemic are also beginning to take their toll. Social distancing has prevented people from reaching out to others, whether it be friends, family, or professionals, if they experience mental health issues. The economic impacts of the virus are also bound to cause anxiety, especially in those who run small businesses or already struggle to make ends meet. The lack of support from religious services and community gatherings also has psychologists worried for those who find solace in these events. BBC reported that several groups are at a higher risk for mental strain due to the virus. These include healthcare workers, people facing job insecurity, people with pre-existing anxiety or depression, and students.

Fortunately, the outlook isn’t all grim. In fact, Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Health, told the Washington Post that increased anxiety is to be expected during such uncertain times. Plus, it seems people have begun to settle into life under stay-at-home orders; a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the number of people concerned about themselves or their loved ones getting sick has declined from 62% to 53%. Perhaps this is a sign that, at the very least, people are learning not to let fear of infection completely debilitate them.

So how can we combat the everyday anxiety of life during a pandemic? Gordon recommends starting by writing down your thoughts on a piece of paper, saying this can help people “crystallize their concerns” and set them aside. The CDC recommends using free time to explore new hobbies and interests, avoid bad habits such as drinking alcohol or overeating, and get plenty of sleep. And, of course, sharing concerns over the phone with a friend, family member, or professional can help you realize that you aren’t alone. As psychiatrist Joshua Morganstein put it, “Finding and sharing creative solutions to the problems people are facing, taking care of ourselves and our families in the best way we are able, and staying connected to one another will remind us we are in this together and help us get through this difficult time.”