America’s Next Pandemic: Mental Health

America’s Next Pandemic: Mental Health

By: Grace Wennerberg

April 11th, 2023

For months, families and communities remained strained and separated, anxiously awaiting answers. Uncertain direction from government officials and inaccurate and polarizing news coverage left individuals feeling hopeless amid a global crisis. Family and friends who had fallen ill with COVID-19—and those with preexisting physical and mental health concerns—suffered alone in isolation. 

To say that the pandemic has caused a mental health crisis would be an understatement. As we enter a post-pandemic era, individuals continue to battle feelings of depression and anxiety triggered by COVID-19. 

According to a recent study, 30% of adults in the United States reported feelings of depression in the year 2020. While this percentage has slightly decreased, 25% of adults are still experiencing these feelings in 2023. 

Undoubtedly, the pandemic’s effects have caused feelings of depression and anxiety. But according to a BBC Tweet, “The mental health crisis from the pandemic was minimal, study suggests.”

The Tweet, with an attached link to the British Medical Journal study, immediately started receiving backlash. People Tweeted in abundance, deeming the study “insensitive” and questioning its credibility. One user commented on the Tweet, “Awkward moment, the BBC is being fact-checked by Twitter.” In response to the comment, another user said, “We didn’t even need the fact check to know this is pure gas lighting.” 

As the insensitive Tweet continues to cause uproar across social media, many have turned to humor to cope with COVID-19’s lasting effects. People have started sharing stories and images of their “unhinged” lockdown behavior, sarcastically stating their mental health was unharmed by the pandemic. 

While humor can soften the blow of traumatic events, it is merely a coping mechanism. Many Americans have suffered from mental illness due the pandemic, but have not been provided the tools and resources to combat these feelings. To assist, The Biden Administration has addressed mental health and proposed a 2 billion dollar budget for a Mental Health System Transformation Fund effective in 2024. 

Despite political efforts to combat the mental health crisis, relief is not being provided quickly enough. Furthermore, the pandemic has placed thousands out of work into a compromising financial situation, making it difficult to afford mental health care. 

According to Mental Health America, 56% of adults with mental illness receive no treatment. But almost a quarter (26%) of adults battling mental illness stated that they could not find care due to finances, an undersized mental health workforce and little to no insurance coverage. 

Most people suffered from mental health concerns throughout the pandemic, but essential workers have seen the largest deterioration in  mental wellbeing. The American Psychology Organization states that, when asked about emotional support, 3 in 4 essential workers shared they needed more than they received. Additionally, 80% of essential workers stated they experienced abnormal sleep habits, and 39% said they turned to alcohol to cope with the stress of the pandemic. 

Annie Murphy, a pediatric intensive care nurse at Rainbow Babies and Children’s hospital in Cleveland, Ohio shared her experience as a health care worker during COVID-19. 

When asked about her mental health during the height of the pandemic, Murphy said, “One of the hardest parts for me was feeling so over-worked with less and less resources everyday. I love my job and I love being a nurse, but the pandemic definitely contributed to my burn out and not enjoying my job as much as I used to.” 

COVID-19 impacted everyone’s physical and mental health differently. While emphasis was placed on physical health, the mental health of individuals was forgotten. As we emerge from isolation, psychiatric care is not accessible or emphasized for a society that experienced a traumatic event. 

As we return to a state of “normalcy”, it is essential that government officials prioritize the mental wellbeing of citizens. Along with funding mental health services, mental health care must continue to be normalized and addressed the same as a physical illness, especially after the pandemic. 

Grace Wennerberg is a junior majoring in Professional and Public Writing with a minor in graphic design. She aspires to work in the fashion industry in writing and content design. In her free time, Grace enjoys binge watching That 70’s Show, making dinner with her roommates, and sketching fashion designs.