By Myleah Diehl, MS, NCC
The COVID-19 pandemic affected us all greatly. We are still looking at some of the long-term effects that months of isolation took on people. As clinicians who have experience in mental health prior to the pandemic we noticed a drastic increase in mental health concerns after the pandemic. We have noted that the level of need has drastically increased. It seems that the pandemic has exacerbated previously existing mental health concerns and aided in the development of new illness for those who previously had no symptoms of mental illness. One of the largest influenced populations were the youth. Adolescents reported that they were not concerned as much for their own safety but more for the safety of their elder relatives (Craig et al., 2022). The anxiety associated with inadvertently exposing someone who was at a hiring risk than the adolescent felt crippling. Which led to a much higher feeling of loneliness and isolation, thus increasing the likelihood of mental illness (Marchini et al., 2021). The social isolation led people to not surround themselves with their typical support systems due to the fear of illness and exposure. Many people crave social interaction, and the even the grocery store led people to believe that they were potentially at risk of getting sick.
When the stay at home order put in place in March of 2020. We were initially told that we would be home for two weeks to curve it. We were home for months after this first statement. Unaware of when it would end or the implications for prolonged isolation we continued to follow instructions to help stop the spread. Based on research from previous pandemics, those quarantined were four times more likely to suffer from mental illness than others (Craig et al., 2022). The closures of school and social service facilities greatly impacted adolescents. Another major concern was if there was violence in the home. School-aged children were asked to stay at home in their abusive environment with no escape. Children were also denied the resources to help deal with the stressors of being at home.
There is still much to be learned about the way the pandemic impacted mental health. We will likely see effects of this for years to come. There was a global shift on the way mental health was viewed and there was more focus and heightened awareness for symptoms. A staggering almost forty percent of youth in the study conducted met the diagnostic criteria for an internalizing disorder (Craig et al., 2022). Internalizing disorders like anxiety were more present in females and post-traumatic stress disorder was more common in males (Craig et al., 2022). In addition to those, depression, attention struggles, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder are also noted at a higher frequency (Craig et al., 2022). As we continue to learn about the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic clinicians will also have to shift and learn to help best serve our clientele.
Craig, S. G., Ames, M. E., Bondi, B. C., & Pepler, D. J. (2022). Canadian adolescents’ mental health and substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic: Associations with COVID-19 stressors. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue Canadienne Des Sciences Du Comportement. https://doi-org.ezproxy.hacc.edu/10.1037/cbs0000305
Marchini, S., Zaurino, E., Bouziotis, J., Brondino, N., Delvenne, V., & Delhaye, M. (2021). Study of resilience and loneliness in youth (18–25 years old) during the COVID‐19 pandemic lockdown measures. Journal of Community Psychology, 49(2), 468–480. https://doi-org.ezproxy.hacc.edu/10.1002/jcop.22473
Rosen, M. L., Rodman, A. M., Kasparek, S. W., Mayes, M., Freeman, M. M., Lengua, L. J., Meltzoff, A. N., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2021). Promoting youth mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal study. PloS One, 16(8), e0255294. https://doi-org.ezproxy.hacc.edu/10.1371/journal.pone.0255294