Looking Out for Others as well as Yourself During These Uncertain Times
Photo by Engin Akyurt
How Covid-19 Has Increased the Number of those Suffering with Mental Health Issues in 2020
It is extremely important to be aware of our mental health and that of the ones we love around us, particularly during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a very stressful and isolating time for many, notably for those living alone that have had to shut themselves away from the rest of the world as they are more at risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract the virus. So it is more important than ever before to check on friends and family more frequently to ensure they are not struggling alone.
APA’s Chief Executive Officer Athur C Evans Jr., PhD has highlighted that their surveys on mental health have demonstrated that the pandemic has caused a significant, detrimental effect on people’s mental wellbeing in 2020. He believes that it is vital to act sooner rather than later to help those that need support before more serious problems develop.
Between January and September 2020 there was a 93% increase of adults experiencing mental health problems as a result of the pandemic compared to statistics in 2019.
Young adults and teenagers appear to be suffering the most, with school closures accounting for the majority of their anxiety and stress about what their future will entail now.
This is when they might start to experience symptoms which are indicative of someone who is experiencing low mood.
- Lethargic/difficulty getting out of bed
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Feeling increasingly lonely
- Extremely low mood
Different Mental Health Issues
There are a variety of mental health problems that someone could be dealing with. Examples could include any of the following.
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Binge Eating Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
These are all generally problems that the person might be able to keep discrete, particularly when they are alone, so you might not necessarily spot problems early on unless you notice a change in behavioural attitudes.
Increase of Young People Dealing With Anxiety and Depression
Teens that commence drinking before the age of 15 are 4 times more likely to develop drug dependency problems later on in adulthood. As a consequence it has led to at least 88,000 deaths annually in the US due to alcoholism problems. It is really important to try and notice the warning signs and offer help and support to those that need it. Places such as Enterhealth can provide professional support and guidance to those in need, before it gets too late.
It has also been noted that teenagers and adults that develop mental health disorders are more at risk of then developing problems with drug use or addiction, so there could possibly be a correlation between the two problems.
There is also a possible link between substance abuse and increased levels of criminal activity. Abuse of tobacco, alcohol and drugs cost more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, less work productivity, and healthcare in the U.S. This is a significant amount of money that could instead be used towards helping these people that are battling with addiction before it gets to stage.
Alcohol Dependence – Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For
Possible signs to be aware of relating to alcohol dependency, could include the following;
- Complete mood changes, particularly irritability.
- Starting to become reclusive and not very communicative.
- Withdrawing from social meet ups to remain at home.
- Short term memory loss, and temporary blackouts.
- Appearing as though they are drinking more and always have a valid reason for doing so.
- Relying on alcohol as a solution to all problems.
- Appearing hungover even if you notice they haven’t drunk any alcohol.
- Drinking alone and in secret.
- Noticing a change in their habitual appearance, not looking they like normally would, perhaps taking less care of themselves.
Drug Abuse – Signs and Symptoms to Look Out For
Potential signs of drug dependency could include both behavioural and physical changes which is worth being aware of.
- Getting into physical fights, illegal activities, accidents.
- Becoming very secretive.
- Wanting to borrow money much more frequently and struggling to pay it back.
- Spending time with different friends and acting differently to before.
- Lack of concentration at work/school.
- Appears to be anxious or very agitated the majority of the time.
- Moods swings, particularly anger.
- Lack of willingness to undertake everyday activities.
- Losing an extreme amount of weight/putting on a lot of weight.
- Bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils.
- Change in appetite.
- Slurred speech, trembling hands.
- Lack of personal hygiene and appearance.
Suicidal Behaviour – Signs to Look Out For
It may not be as obvious being able to detect instances where someone is having suicidal thoughts as they are most likely to be keeping this to themselves. However there are some possible warning signs to be aware of.
- If they have previously suffered from a history of psychological or physical abuse, they are more susceptible to suicidal thoughts.
- Are in significant financial trouble.
- Suffering with a mental health problem/physical illness.
- Have experienced grief or the loss of a job recently.
- Noticing signs of recklessness like dangerous driving or getting into trouble with the cops which is very out of character.
Ways You Can Keep In Contact With Those Living Alone During the Pandemic
Just remembering to chat or check up on a friend or family member can make all the difference in the world, particularly if they are living on their own and are currently not having much human contact. It is very easy to get lost in a monotonous routine whereby they get used to not seeing or speaking to another person and start to become even more withdrawn from the outside world and want to spend time on their own as they start to find excuses not to go out.
You could do things like write a letter instead of an email, text or social media message. A letter to hold in your hand feels so much more personal and there is a sense of more commitment as you need to write down your thoughts, and then post the letter.
Send them a package of treats that you know they would enjoy or a personalized gift containing photos of memories you shared together to remind them of happier times.
Send them a funny meme at the start of the day to boost their mood. Laughter is after all a great antidote to when you feel sad.
Facetime them and cook the same meal over video chat and then eat it. It won’t be the same as eating together physically, but you will still be able to interact with each other and feel as though you are sharing a lovely moment together.
Ring them up and ask them how they are feeling and how their day is going. Just a simple “How are you?” demonstrates that you are thinking about them and care. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that we forget that the smallest gestures can make the world of difference to somebody else that is struggling mentally.
If you can notice the warning signs of a loved one that is struggling then you can certainly ensure that they can be saved in time before it escalates and they end up becoming another statistic in a suicide survey.