Psychological health

3 Positive Mental Health Outcomes from the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Long-term mental health consequences of COVID-19

Don’t waste a good crunch. Quick lessons from the pandemic to improve mental health

Source: Photo by Aakanksha Panwar on Unsplash

With the severity of the COVID pandemic mostly behind us, we are finally given the opportunity to step back and assess the long-term effects on mental health and mental health care — including some unexpected benefits for emotional health.

The news media tells us about the impact of the pandemic on lives lost, the damage to supply chains, and the economy, and most of us have felt some of the psychological effects of the pandemic in the form of increased stress, depression or anxiety. The cumulative effects of fear of contracting COVID, periods of isolation and unemployment or underemployment for some of us, and a sudden, dramatic change in life circumstances, are real. Long-term COVID and ongoing mental health challenges will be with us for some time. Persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with COVID-19 have been documented.

However, while the undesirable effects are well documented, let’s step back for a moment and note how Covid can have unexpected benefits for people who need mental health support and mental health service providers.

Removing the stigma of treatment

Before COVID, when most of us had more socializing in shared offices and socializing, people tended to keep their psychological struggles private. The stigma caused by speaking out about mental health has made it very difficult for people to open up about their issues. Coronavirus has caused a coup: Zoom team meetings and online check-ins with managers often begin with, “How are you today?” We have all felt the effects of isolation and understood that our colleagues, friends and family are also suffering emotionally. It became acceptable to open up about emotional difficulties, or at least acknowledge them.

Employers have provided hotlines for anyone experiencing increased anxiety or depression to access immediate support. The isolation caused by not being with people has brought subtle struggles to the surface, removed the stigma of mental health challenges, and made it easier for the people who suffer the most to access help.

People who admit they have been struggling:

  1. Reduce the stigma associated with mental health struggles.
  2. Normalize the idea that it is common for people who are going through big changes and life stresses to need help.
  3. Lowered stigma barrier to psychological or psychological support.

Reducing barriers to accessing treatment

Shifting from primarily in-person therapy sessions to readily available online therapy sessions significantly reduces barriers to accessing therapy.

  1. Online therapy is more private: Fear of a lack of adequate privacy, or concerns about potential effects on one’s professional life have prevented some people from benefiting from mental health care in a clinic.
  2. Online therapy is more comfortable for many people: Therapy can be less threatening when accessed discreetly, than in the comfort and privacy of home.
  3. Online therapy is more suitable: especially for people who have busy schedules or have mobility challenges. People who had previously been unable to consistently attend their appointments found it more convenient to access care online, which resulted in fewer missed appointments, and more sustainable professional care.

Where fear drives initiative

Some people who have been hospitalized in the past due to mental health challenges have been concerned about contracting COVID if they are hospitalized again. This concern prompted them to be more proactive about their care, seeking help early to avoid the possibility of hospitalization in the future.

Building on the openings created by the crisis

By following the saying “never miss a good crisis,” we can take advantage of the unexpected opportunities the pandemic has created to improve mental health.

If you’re a business owner or manager, keep talking about mental health and do your best to remove the stigma from seeking help.

If you’re struggling yourself, take advantage of open online care options to find a psychiatrist or other mental health practitioner, such as a psychologist, social worker, or psychotherapist, who can best meet your unique needs.

If you are a mental health care provider, consider how best to provide care to your clients. K A psychiatrist in a private practice in ManhattanAnd, as a faculty member at New York University, I see how people who would otherwise have struggled on their own seek help. I see how my patients are becoming more able to access care thanks to telehealth, and I see how patients are better able to keep appointments online – providing greater continuity of care.

Coronaviruses have prompted us to change. We are becoming more open to accessing help and more creative in how we provide help. By keeping these channels open, and creating new initiatives, we can work effectively to build better mental health for ourselves and our clients.

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