Data released by Mental Health America revealed that since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, mental health conditions are increasing in prevalence and severity. Mihaela Vincze, the program specialist for nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies, is here to talk about the mental health impacts from our new reality.
Al: Why are people struggling with mental health problems now more than ever before?
Mihaela: There are many reasons, however, the top contributor cited by respondents who completed Mental Health America’s screening program, was “loneliness and isolation”.
Al: That makes sense given the restrictions of social gatherings to prevent coronavirus. How bad is social isolation for us, really?
Mihaela: Research shows that social isolation has a similar effect on lifespan as that of obesity, smoking, and chronic conditions, as it is associated with higher odds of early death. Lockdown is demonstrating that positive social relationships are vital to our wellbeing since so many people are struggling with the magnitude of loneliness in ways that they never have before.
Al: So while physical connectedness is off the table, what can people do to feel less alone?
Mihaela: While those who are facing mental health conditions may struggle getting out of bed, reaching out is something they should consider especially since many of us have the ability to connect remotely. If you haven’t been inclined to video chat or call your loved ones, perhaps reconsider this as both of you may feel uplifted after checking in. Plan a virtual dinner date, or a game night— social distancing does not mean social isolation, and we all need to connect now more than ever before.
Al: We all benefit from making an effort to stay socially connected. For anyone who is concerned, how can they tell if they’re experiencing a mental health condition versus a low mood?
Mihaela: Individuals should tune into their emotional health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are common signs of distress to look out for, as these can be indicators of an underlying mental health condition, if they interfere with everyday life. These include feelings of anger, fear, worry, sadness, frustration, or numbness, as well as changes in energy levels and appetite. Individuals should also be cognizant of sleep changes or nightmares, worsening of chronic health problems, and physical reactions. Difficulty concentrating as well as increased substance use are also signs of distress.
Al: For anyone worried about their mental health or the mental health of loved ones, what can they do?
Mihaela: Reach out to a mental health professional. Many are teleworking during this time, and can help you receive an accurate diagnosis and explore various treatment options. You’re not alone and help is out there.
Al: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with the public?
Mihaela: Check out our mental health guide for available resources at transamericacenterforhealthstudies.org. Follow us on twitter @TCHS and facebook facebook.com/TCHstudies
Al: Thank you again for joining us, Mihaela. This has been another episode of ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. I’m your host Al Waller – thanks for listening.