Article by: McKenna Hereford, PhD
In case you missed it, May was National Mental Health Awareness Month!
You’ve likely heard conversations around mental health the last couple years, and for good reason! The pandemic has exacerbated the need for mental health care across the world. From children losing needed routines and access to foods to exhausted healthcare workers, it’s no secret conversations around mental health have become increasingly important. In fact, President Biden signed a proclamation early in May 2022 highlighting the larger impacts on mental health and specific groups that have experienced unique stressors. Here are some things to keep in mind now that the hype from May has ended:
Children are still experiencing a mental health crisis.
Experts have sounded the alarm about children suffering from new or worsening mental health symptoms. Particularly concerning is the increase in hospitalizations and diagnoses but only 20% of those children receiving adequate mental health care. While some children experienced benefits from remote learning, many described the pandemic as the worst event they have ever experienced. Further, difficulty in accessing social services from schools, such as food access, has increased potential mental health concerns. While social media can offer community for children/adolescents, increased access to social media has been associated with higher levels of anxiety and poor self-image. This has particularly been challenging for parents as well, who have often felt emotionally depleted due to lack of assistance in childcare from family members and daycare or school. Historically, parents have typically received important assistance in child rearing spanning back thousands of years that includes extended family members and community supporters. Without that extra support, parents have described significant challenges in coping with their own stressors and supporting their children during the pandemic.
Healthcare workers have faced increased mental health concerns.
The pandemic still affects people in the US, and healthcare workers are still addressing COVID-19, side effects of COVID-19, and other important health concerns for everyone. Researchers have found that almost half of frontline healthcare workers have experienced higher levels of depression. Many healthcare workers, particularly those in emergency rooms, have faced difficult challenges at work that may violate their morals resulting in moral injury. Recent surveys showed the majority of healthcare workers were considering leaving their careers in the next two years. With no shortage of health concerns and few breaks, healthcare workers continue to face exhaustion, burnout, moral injury, and depression.
Black and Brown communities have faced significant disparities in care and discrimination that have affected mental health.
For example, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals have been victims of violence at an increased rate in the United States due false associations with COVID-19. The American Psychological Association reported a 149% increase in crimes toward AAPI communities that has resulted in higher rates of anxiety, depression, and sleep concerns. Black communities have experienced increased racial trauma, grief due to disproportionate deaths from COVID-19, and depression during the pandemic. For these communities, disparities in mental health and medical care have contributed to continued mental health concerns and caused understandable mistrust toward the systems in place. Advocacy groups have publicly sounded the alarm for more culturally responsive therapy to address increased needs among communities.
Thankfully, we can support people suffering from increased mental health concerns including the ones already mentioned!
First, asking people what they need in the moment can be an excellent way to provide support. Sometimes people know they might need space, emotional support, or help with tasks to alleviate distress. For groups facing larger rates of disparities in treatment and symptoms, advocacy individually by providing a safe place or on a larger level through voting or donating financial resources can be helpful. For all the groups previously mentioned, large scale advocacy through legislation and voting can be an excellent way to support. Helping with burdensome tasks or simply listening can be impactful as well. Connecting people to others in similar communities might also provide important support or reaching out to others if you identify in specific communities. Actively checking in with friends, family, and co-workers can make a huge difference for those who are hesitant to reach out or who might be feeling overwhelmed! Spreading awareness on social media and among those you know is another way to honor mental health awareness. Importantly, for yourself, routinely checking in with yourself is important and can allow you to detect early signs you might need additional support. If you notice any changes in sleep, appetite, mood, interactions with others, habits, and/or physical symptoms such as headaches, that might be a time to reflect on recent stressors and potential remedies. Maybe that’s a time for you to reach out to your support network or more actively engage in self-care strategies! May has ended, but we still need to support ourselves and others.
If you notice changes in you or a loved one, Deep Eddy Psychotherapy is here to help! Even if you’re not sure where to start, call us at 512-956-6463 so we can help you figure out a first step. To learn more about depression specifically, check out our YouTube video below with Charlotte Howard at our practice: