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The pandemic had profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages, especially people with pre-existing psychological diagnoses such as PTSD, anxiety and depressive disorders.

Mental Health & Psychiatry

COVID-19 Leaving Lasting Impact on Mental Health

Photo of someone struggling mentallyIt has been just over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States full force, and it has had profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages, especially people with pre-existing psychological diagnoses such as PTSD, anxiety and depressive disorders.

This year has been challenging on multiple fronts. The addition of social distancing, changes to work, school and family routines, economic impact and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened existing mental health concerns and even triggered new symptoms. 

Understanding the impact of the pandemic on mental health is critical. Providers at hospitals across the country are currently reporting alarming increases in rates of attempted and completed suicides among youth — especially teenagers. 

Allie Friesen, Behavioral Health Clinical Programs Director at INTEGRIS Health, suggests parents with children under age 18 reflect on how the family system is operating. “Keep an eye on adolescents and teens. Monitor social media; it is a huge source of influence, especially for girls aged 9 to 13. Notice any significant behavior changes, such as loss of interest or marked changes to their personality. Most importantly, talk to your kids. Keep the lines of communication open. Clearly and consistently let them know you are available to listen anytime without judgement.”

Research indicates the mental health impacts of COVID-19 will continue and outlast the pandemic itself. Many people functioned in survival mode the last year, and as they resume their routines, might begin to realize how profoundly COVID-19 has impacted them. Anxiety may be exacerbated post-pandemic, especially for those with pre-existing mental health issues. 

Friesen recommends that people take inventory for how they are coping both in private without distractions and in public spaces. She explains, “Be honest with yourself; don’t ignore how you’re feeling. Take your mental health pulse frequently. If you experience anxiety when you are alone and/or in public – identify the triggers – what you experienced mentally, emotionally, and physically. From there, problem solve. What can you do differently in the future to better identify these triggers? How can you cope effectively with stressful situations? What worked for you prior to COVID-19 may not be what you need now. Try new healthy ways to cope, give yourself grace, and offer flexibility to yourself and others.” 

There are practical tools that everyone can use to improve their mental health and increase resiliency. Open communication with loved ones, journaling, exercise, reading, and allotting a short time for yourself to recharge your batteries every single day. 

One way to check in with yourself is to take a mental health screen at MHAscreening.org. It’s a quick, free, and private way for someone to assess their mental health and recognize signs of mental health problems. 

If you or someone you know needs need help, resources are available. 
Heartline Oklahoma – Call 2-1-1 or text 8989211. 2-1-1 is a free, 24-hour phone service that provides Oklahomans access to information about health and human services. 
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1 800 273 TALK (8255) 
SAMHSA National Helpline – 1 800 662-HELP (1 800 662 4357)

INTEGRIS Health urges you to seek help for yourself or your loved ones if needed. Don’t let COVID-19 claim even more lives by ignoring the signs or downplaying the impact the pandemic has had on our mental health.

 

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