Even though 43.8 million adults struggle with mental health issues in a given year, there are only 577,000 mental health professionals practicing in the US today (Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.) In other words, there is one mental health professional per every 570 people in the US.
Amber Styborski claims, “everyone can benefit from therapy,” whether or not someone has a pre-existing mental disorder.
Jack Kuchmay (10) agreed. “You don’t need to suffer from mental health issues to get a therapist,” he said.
Therapy is somewhat of a controversial subject, as there is a stigma that exists around mental health that argues that people who need therapy have something wrong with them. This stigma has kept many people from seeking the help they need.
“Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of. […] Needing therapy does not mean you have something wrong with you; it just means you need help” (Amber Styborski). There is nothing wrong with reaching out to others to help you through negative thoughts.
Communication is vital to securing your mental state. Therapy is beneficial because it provides an outlet for negative emotions and promotes growth. Humans are social creatures. We need to interact with others to survive and to stay mentally stable. With the rise of the cases of Covid-19, the United States has been through two separate quarantines. This isolation has been detrimental to the mental health of the population.
Mr. Frazier, a health teacher at Homestead, claims that the lack of social interaction has caused him to suffer from more anxiety than he’s ever had to deal with before. He is not alone with these feelings, as 18.1% of adults (approximately 40 million) and 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety (CDC). This was before the Covid-19 pandemic.
To cope with these feelings, Mr. Frazier lets his emotions out through physical fitness, such as running. Channeling stress into something productive, such as exercise or reading, or creative activities, like knitting or painting or doing a puzzle, is an effective way to relieve stress.
The CDC also recommends taking a nap, drinking water, going outside, and participating in other methods of self-care. By promoting a healthy body, you also promote a healthy mind. Another way to reduce anxiety is to write down your feelings in a journal, or to tell someone else about it, as a form of self-therapy. The point is to find a way to release your stress without causing harm to yourself or others.
Depression tends to go hand-in-hand with anxiety. 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression, according to the CDC. From there, 73.8% of children with depression also have anxiety. The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened these feelings of depression and anxiety, paired with the seasonal depression that comes with the winter months
Neurological disorders and mental health issues may make a person more susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. A study done by JAMA Network claims “a total of 458 participants (8.5%) had depression symptoms before COVID-19, and 382 participants (27.8%) had depression symptoms during COVID-19.” Clinical depression needs an official diagnosis, but if you feel depressed for two weeks without end, or have constant feelings of hopelessness, seek medical attention for a diagnosis.
There’s also a form of depression known as seasonal depression, which many people suffer from in the cold, gloomy winter months. Covid has made it even harder for people to cope with this seasonal depression, as they can’t go out with others to escape the loneliness of winter.
Fortunately, spring is coming soon, and with that the days are getting brighter and warmer. People can start to take comfort in nature again. It is scientifically proven that sunshine benefits both one’s physical and mental health. Go outside and clear your mind.
Isolation did not not stop at raising depression and anxiety rates. Covid has also increased the rates of those struggling with eating disorders. The main eating disorders are Anorexia, which consists of a person starving themselves and overexercising to lose weight, and Bulimia Nervosa, in which a person binges and purges, consuming extreme amounts of food and then forcing themselves to vomit it all up.
“Eating disorders affect at least 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, of which only 6% are medically diagnosed as ‘underweight,’” says the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, or ANAD. This was before the Covid pandemic.
News-Medical cited a study in which 1,011 people were surveyed to figure out how COVID had affected their eating disorders. Both people with Anorexia and with Bulimia Nervosa claimed that quarantine had heightened their anxiety and caused their eating disorders to worsen. Those who were Anorexic claimed that they felt more “restricted” to find foods that were “in-line with their meal-plans,” and those who were Bulimic reported that they “(experienced) more episodes of binge eating.”
The NCBI warned that Covid “has the potential to increase need for healthcare services” while “reducing capacity for traditional […] treatment options” at the same time. It is clear that Covid has caused more people to suffer from anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. The fact that there are less face-to-face options for people to get treated, is somewhat discouraging. However, people have found ways around it. Some people are now turning to virtual doctor visits and therapy sessions to keep themselves safe from the virus.
There are many ways to reach out for help, and many people willing to help you.
If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder, there is a hotline available: 1-800-931-2237
Typical treatment for eating disorders includes a doctor’s visit, in which a hospital visit may also be necessary if the person is unable to function physically. The National Eating Disorder Association also recommends seeking therapy to prevent from relapsing into the eating disorder.
Although therapy still has a negative stigma around it, therapy is vital to surviving the mental trials of the Covid pandemic.
Ultimately, mental health is a tricky subject to talk about, and it is one that needs to be handled with sensitivity and care. Do a daily check in on yourself. Are you feeling alright? Have you eaten anything or had any water today? Shake out the tension in your shoulders, do a little stretch. Ask a friend how their day has been so far. Take a deep breath and let out all of the stress that’s been plaguing you. And most importantly, ask for help. Conquering mental health issues starts with you.
Originally published in the Spartana Issue 6 (Mach 2021)