The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just a crisis of the healthcare system. It’s also severely affecting the economy. Even as businesses reopen, many workers are still unemployed and falling behind on their bills. This situation is leading to dire mental health effects that need both attention and funding.
Anxiety About an Unknown Future
Data from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows that Americans are already suffering from anxiety and depression from the COVID-19 crisis. A crisis hotline saw a 1,000% increase in calls in April. A telehealth therapy service reported a 65% increase in appointment requests. People are worried about what the future might hold for them. Uncertainty about jobs and income and access to food, medicine and healthcare has increased the rates of general anxiety disorder in Americans.
Depression About Current Circumstances
Many people feel their life’s purpose is their work. The loss of a job results in a loss of feeling useful. If a person doesn’t feel like they’re useful, needed or helpful, they may develop depression. This could also happen if a person’s hours are reduced or if they must take a pay cut. Being unable to provide for yourself or your children could lead to major depression.
Fear of What Might Happen Next
The COVID-19 financial crisis has many people fearful of what might happen next. The federal $600 stipend for each unemployment check helped many people avoid eviction. If those people remain unemployed and Congress doesn’t continue the extra unemployment compensation funds, people might not be able to pay their rent or mortgage. Foreclosure of one’s home could precipitate a mental health crisis.
Worry About Not Having Life Essentials
When a person has lost their job or lives paycheck-to-paycheck, they constantly worry about not having life essentials. Food insecurity is a common problem in the United States, and COVID-19 has exacerbated this issue. When a person doesn’t know if they will have food the next day, they feel stressed, worried, frustrated or even angry. A parent who doesn’t know if they’ll have enough food for their child may feel worthless. These feelings contribute to mental health problems.
Difficulty Accessing Mental Health Support
COVID-19 closures didn’t only affect restaurants and stores. They also affected healthcare services. Many people found their doctor and therapy appointments canceled or postponed. For a person already barely coping with life’s stress or a mental health condition, not having access to medical and mental health treatment can be devastating.
Increased Rates of Suicide and Substance Abuse
When people feel depressed and anxious and are unable to get the support they need, many turn to substance abuse. Health experts fear that rates of substance abuse will go up. People who were in recovery may return to substance abuse if they can’t access group meetings or other support services. Suicide prevention hotlines have been busier than ever. If the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic continues, mental health experts expect the rate of suicide could increase. In a 2007 study, researchers noted that for each 1% increase in the unemployment rate, there was a 1.6% increase in the suicide rate.