By Julie-Ann Simpson
Last year was challenging for the entire world. Life as we know it changed with no warning and it has impacted the mental health of humanity, in general. The pandemic hurt people not only physically but also mentally. Mental health is the overall condition of a person’s psychological, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It can be affected positively or negatively. An article from Yale Medicine written by Kathy Katella on March 9, 2021, titled Our Pandemic Year- A COVID-19 Timeline shows how the COVID-19 has spread globally since March 11, 2020, when the WHO, World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus a pandemic.
This destructive spread shook the world into fear and panic resulting in a threat to mental health. Although COVID-19 attacked the bodies of many people, it also attacked the mind and emotions of its victims and their loved ones who were forced to practice social distance. Social distance is the cruelty of COVID-19 because people are forced to endure pain and suffering alone. On the contrary, social distance is the most effective tool to control the spread of the virus.
When the world shut down, everything stopped and all but essential business services were closed. Businesses, schools, houses of worship, restaurants, and even the city that never sleeps, New York City all came to a grinding halt. To make matters worse, hospitals were flooded with patients and the bodies of those who did not survive. All of this greatly affected our mental health. It was a devastating year. Besides the effects of COVID-19 and frustrations with the stay-at-home orders, the world took to the streets and protested the killing of George Floyd by a police officer, Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. This escalated social uproars, injustice, and racial tensions among some states. The psychological state of many individuals became a concern as the rate of depression and substance abuse increased since the start of the pandemic. According to the CDC, Centers for Disease Control, “The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to the morbidity and mortality caused by the disease and to mitigation activities, including the impact of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.”
Many people experienced depression, anxiety, and loneliness due to social distancing and orders to stay home. Extroverts struggle with the new norm and even introverts became frustrated to a certain degree, especially when they missed special occasions like birthday celebrations and Thanksgiving with family. For many people, 2020 meant crying alone, suffering alone, mourning alone, and staying alone for a long time. It was also a year that taught the world how to touch someone without being able to physically touch them. The world turned to social media and phone calls to stay connected with family and friends. In addition, COVID-19 has affected the mental health of students and educators, some of which are also parents to school-aged children and caregivers to elderly parents. The social distancing and stay-at-home order as created job loss, anxieties, withdrawals, severe depressions, and other issues that lead to physical illnesses. In underprivileged homes, globally there has been a decline in the performance of some students because they lack the digital tools such as tablets or laptops to participate in online learning. For some, the only device in the home is those belonging to their parents who may be working from home. This is happening not only in the United States but in other parts of the world such as the Netherlands and Jamaica.
A sophomore student at QCC recently shared her experience during the pandemic. She explained how her mental health was affected and that she was always anxious. “I wanted to distance myself from the reality of the world, so I watched movies and shows,” she stated. Like many of us, she wanted to escape the fear of the unknown, uncertainties, loneliness, toxicities, negative news reports, and the tensions surrounding the pandemic. She stated, “in the beginning, it really got destroyed,” referring to her mental health. She felt extremely overwhelmed and depressed. As a result, she had trouble focusing on her lessons, and she lost interest in everything. She was often in tears because of the level of depression she felt. Life improved for this student when she decided to change her focus. She shifted her focus from her surroundings and began relying on her faith in God. It was her faith and determination that led her to regain a positive mindset. She expressed gratitude for life and those in her life.
Unfortunately, many people experienced losses because of the pandemic but there are still reasons to be grateful. Every experience has a lesson, and every loss should make us appreciative of what we still have. For some, the experience is still fresh, and it may be difficult to cope with. Despite the losses, there is still hope for happiness. If you are among those who are feeling depressed and severely overwhelmed by an emotional or mental health challenge, there are resources available at QCC to help you overcome these struggles.
The Counseling Center offers personal counseling for individuals, and the counselors there can assist you with different issues. Never hold in your problems. You are not alone in your struggles, so reach who to those who are trained and experienced to help you out of your storm. Protect your mental health by surrounding yourself with positive people, finding good habits, focusing on your purpose, and doing what makes you happy.