At this point in the coronavirus pandemic, the general public is well aware of who is most at risk to be hit hardest by COVID-19. Older adults and people who have underlying health conditions are those that we need to keep a close eye on and we need to make sure they’re getting all the care they need and maintain an extremely safe distance. But as we’ve learned, other groups are also at risk to be hit hard by this pandemic – including those who suffer from mental illness.
While I’ve had this feeling for the past month or so, it’s comforting to know that experts agree. A new paper published in JAMA Psychiatry said this population that people with severe mental health disorders could be uniquely affected by the current situation. In addition, the public mental health service centers that help this population could also face an influx of patients, as this group could be at risk of elevated infection rates or worse prognoses.
“Mental health issues often coincide with a unique set of challenges that make it difficult for people to access even the most basic necessities, such as food, medications, stable housing, and healthcare.”
The Healthline article goes on to say that lack of access to mental health professionals and more susceptibility to substance abuse are also concerns for the population during this time among other potential issues. Just like other groups of people who are affected by not having the same exposure to the care they might need, those with mental health disorders could be facing difficulties.
Obviously, not all struggles are equal depending on the mental illnesses involved as well as socioeconomic factors, but the point remains, and it’s backed up by mental health professionals. Even before the time of Corona, it was estimated that 1 in 13 people globally suffers from anxiety. Now, there are so many more people are dealing with severe anxiety, and the symptoms, struggles and difficulties for those already living with mental illness are amplified.
What makes this all the more difficult, of course, is that having a physical presence with someone suffering from mental illness is extremely helpful, as many of these MIs carry a symptom of self-isolation already. How can we help when we aren’t allowed to see these people in person? Just as we have with game nights, happy hours and even the dating world, we take it online.
Virtual check-ins and calls can nearly as effective, as well as helping your friends or loved ones with planning and schedules to make sure there isn’t too much idle time throughout the day. Offering resources you’ve seen can been helpful, too (for instance a friend of mine sent me a project/toolkit being done by the team behind Shine, a self-care app, called ‘Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety’ that I’ve been reading constantly), since you never know what can help!
While you might think this might be difficult, I’d argue that it’s just different, maybe even more effective than trying to see them in person. Speaking from experience, I know there were times when I couldn’t be around people, but I could handle a phone call or FaceTime. You never know what could work, so you have to try and see what happens.
As with other groups of people and demographics, not everyone in the mental health community will be impacted in the same way by this virus, but knowing that some people have the potential to be more impacted is helpful knowledge as we face unique challenges every day of this odd, strange time.
Sidenote: I’m currently trying to sort MBNB’s Blog Categories page to properly put together a home page for resources, posts and other links that will try to help the mental health community deal with the impact of the coronavirus. I promise updates as they come!