October 9, 2020 ● 3 min read
By Emily Bradfield
Wednesday, March 11, 2020. The day of the metaphorical “shot heard round the world”.
On that late-Winter Wednesday, everything seemed to change in an instant. During the afternoon, the World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a “pandemic”. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 1,400 points, a 20% decrease from its February peak. Later that evening, following news of Rudy Gobert’s positive COVID-19 test, the NBA announced that it would be on a “hiatus” until further notice.At 9 pm, President Donald Trump delivered a primetime statement announcing a 30-day travel ban from most European nations.
More than 6 months later, we seem to have settled into a “new normal”. It is a strange sight to see someone in a public space without a mask. Clorox wipes are a hot commodity. Roughly 42% of Americans in June were working from home full time. Millions of children are learning from home via laptops and tablets. From how we learn, to how we work, to how we receive health care, the pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives. It has affected everyone in different ways and has had a large impact on the mental health of people all around the globe.
World Mental Health Day
The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for mental health advocacy even more pressing than before; in late June, 40% of US adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse. This Saturday, October 10th is World Mental Health Day, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is inviting the global community to take part in The Big Event for Mental Health, an online event for increased investment in mental health at all levels. It will feature talks from national and international leaders, performances from critically acclaimed musicians, artists’ advice for those who are struggling, and information about WHO mental health initiatives. The WHO has also launched a #MoveForMentalHealth social media campaign, asking people to post videos of them dancing, running, walking, cooking, or any activity that they do to support their mental wellbeing. Although it may be impossible to predict the future of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can take some comfort in connecting virtually, standing in solidarity, and supporting one another in our struggles. Virtually everyone is impacted by the effects of the pandemic:
Hard-Hit Healthcare Workers
Our nation’s health care system has been at the forefront of the virus’s impact. According to the CDC’s most recent estimates, among the 18 million healthcare workers in the United States, there have been more than 170,000 cases and 739 deaths. Beyond just the physical aspect, fears of infection, increased workloads, and poor social support have made working during the pandemic even more difficult than before. Here at the Heroes Health Initiative, we are committed to supporting healthcare workers who do so much for others.
Just this past February, it would have not been unusual to walk into an 8 am introductory CHEM101 class and see 300+ students packed into a large lecture hall, seated shoulder to shoulder. Today, this sight seems nearly unimaginable. While learning changes have protected against outbreaks and safeguarded the physical health of students, they have contributed to mental strain among students, who were already considered vulnerable to mental health problems. Some experts consider the mental health fallout COVID-19’s “second curve”.
Effects on Employees
The pandemic has also had a large impact on the mental health of working individuals. It has exacerbated the usual workplace stressors such as job insecurity, heavy workload, inadequate work environment, financial struggles, and social isolation. While the loss of social connections and workplace loneliness was already considered an “epidemic” pre-COVID, it has only been worsened by widespread teleworking. Many employees may also struggle to separate work from home life, as increased technological connectivity has now made instant responsiveness an expectation.
Because so many are impacted by mental health struggles, investment in mental health is more important than ever before. We invite you to show your support, participate in the Big Event for Mental Health, and use the hashtag #MoveForMentalHealth!