Physician Practice

The fight against anxiety, depression, and mental illness during COVID-19

Medical Environment Update, March 25, 2021

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Mental health implications of the pandemic expected to last for years

by Brian Ward

Mental health has deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients no longer have access to their normal support systems and outlets, while changes and disruptions to daily life have become the norm.

The pandemic has only exacerbated an existing mental health crisis in America that affects millions every day. Even with states now distributing COVID-19 vaccines, the toll on Americans’ psyche won’t go away when the coronavirus does, said Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, during a January webinar on mental health. 

“Here’s the hard truth: There’s no vaccine for mental illness,” said Williams. “It will be months, if not years, before we are able to grasp the scope of the mental health issues born out of this pandemic. Long after we’ve gained control of this virus, the mental health repercussions will likely continue to reverberate.”

Mental health advocates and healthcare professionals have long tried to bring more attention and resources toward helping the 51.5 million Americans who suffer from a mental illness. That’s nearly one in five adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), all of whom have now had nearly every aspect of daily life disrupted by the coronavirus.

While more research needs to be done, initial studies and reports suggest a bilateral impact between mental health issues and COVID-19, with each exacerbating the other. Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers are not immune to the stresses and burnout brought on by mental health issues, as seen in a recent report. As facilities are facing bed and medical supply shortages for patients and other pandemic-related crises, it can be difficult for healthcare providers to consider the mental health of their patients.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Medical Environment Update.

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