Deal with mental illness before COVID after things return to “normal”

Key points

  • Some people who had mental illness before the pandemic were left behind when care shifted to address the needs of people with COVID-related problems.
  • Leaders and allies in the workplace, educational environment, and elsewhere should consider extending the care and flexibility they provide to those with COVID-related issues to those with chronic and ongoing mental health challenges.

The pandemic has brought people who have never experienced mental health problems into new areas because they have encountered a series of emotional challenges for the first time in their lives.

For some, these concerns are beginning to dissipate. For people who have been vaccinated, the situational anxiety about being infected with the virus feels less intense. For those who are happy to return to their pre-COVID lifestyle, situational depression due to isolation may no longer be a problem for them.

But for those who already had mental health problems before the pandemic, as the world reopens, the continued support of mental health professionals and the sympathy of the support network must continue. Many people hope to change our cultural norms to promote greater acceptance and recognition of patients with mental illness.

How COVID-19 affects pre-existing mental health conditions

Pixie Kirsch Nirenberg of LSW is a private practice therapist in the Philadelphia area. They say that the epidemic hits marginalized people more than people with fewer barriers to support and care.

They explained that people who face social isolation—including the elderly, those unable to access technology due to disability, poverty or lifestyle, and those recovering from drug abuse and dependence or coping with trauma—are particularly affected.

Jeffrey Cohen, PhD in psychology, is a clinical psychologist at Columbia University Irvine Medical Center. He said, “While telemedicine increases the chances of some people getting care, others actually cannot get what they need.”

Cohen explained: “People experiencing more symptoms and those in need of medical detoxification or hospitalization programs benefit from limited face-to-face care during the pandemic.”

Pixie added: “Structural oppression is a form of trauma, and people with marginalized identities and experiences continue to endure this trauma. This had a negative impact on their mental health before the pandemic, but the pandemic highlighted the differences. Many people living with pre-existing worries feel that their symptoms are worsening.”

Jeffrey Cohen, PhD in Psychology

Although telemedicine increases the chances of some people getting care, others actually cannot get what they need.

— Jeffrey Cohen, PhD in Psychology

Pixie cited the struggle of transgender people, especially young people, who often encounter severe and persistent health barriers due to lack of support and resources.

When social distancing recommendations increase the barriers for people to connect with “selected” households or non-biological community members who often live in different households, some people cannot access the entire support network and professional help.

Find quality care

Jonah, 33, is a transgender, non-dual person seeking support for major depression (MDD), ADHD, complex traumatic disorder (C-PTSD) and autism before the pandemic . They started to get to know a new therapist they thought was not suitable, but due to a shortage of providers, they felt that they had no other choice to seek help.

Before the pandemic, Jonah’s greatest difficulties were executive function and motivation, social anxiety and auditory processing disorders. Because when COVID-19 appeared in their city, they were already working from home and their working day had not changed much, but the idea of ​​leaving home to do anything became weaker.

On some days, work was the only task that Jonah had the energy to pursue, while on other days, they couldn’t do it. Jonah said that some organizations and resources that claim to help people with mental health problems may be exploitative or poorly managed. They withdrew from their support system, but recently discovered an online support group where someone offered help.

Pixie said that for practitioners, it is important to remind people not to be good. The beginning of the reopening of the world has not concealed people’s concerns that existed before Covid-19 or the trauma that people suffered during the pandemic.

Pixie explained that peer-led support group spaces are usually the cheapest, most accessible, and most sure environment because they are run by people who struggle with the same specific problems or experiences. This may be an important addition to professional care, or a reliable option to provide temporary support before professional care is available.

Need for cultural change

Jonah hopes that because people have learned a lot about mental health during this time, the stigma surrounding mental health issues will be reduced.

Before the pandemic, their mental health problems and transgender identity were reported to a leadership team and used to deal with them—promoting them to undergo lengthy psychological evaluations. They emphasize the importance of ending stigma by looking for any problematic slander and jokes about mental health or marginalization.

Pixie Kirsch Nirenberg, LSW

My best hope is that people who may not have understood or been unaffected by mental health before will now see that our environment has a huge impact on mental health.

-Pixie Kirsch Nirenberg, LSW

“If we treat mental health as a personal defect and ask people to be self-reliant, we are telling people that they need to be repaired and that they should repair themselves. My best hope is that those who may not understand mental health are healthy or have not previously Affected by it, we now see that our environment has a huge impact on mental health,” Pixi said.

Cohen added that the workplace should normalize the importance of paid sick leave and mental health days. He added: “A workplace where leaders rarely take time off and never takes time off for Mental Health Day can create a toxic environment where people are afraid of taking time off and are more prone to exhaustion.” Leaders should continue to struggle with those who are struggling in the pandemic. Of people provide the same flexibility, support and understanding as them.

For neurotic people, flexibility in the workplace is key. Jonah said: “We have a very good understanding of what we need to do in society throughout our lives. I believe that if we say we can do a job, we can do a job even if we don’t use what they are used to seeing. The same route, technology or timetable.”

Systemic changes can also be made at the legislative level. Pixie urges people to vote for representatives who prioritize mental health care and other topics that affect mental health—including insurance coverage and issues related to poverty and marginalization.

Cohen said that people sometimes get care that is not actually helpful, adding: “We need laws to ensure that people seeking mental health treatment can get evidence-based treatment, that is, treatment that is supported by scientific research.” He advocated for promotion based on The law of measured care, which evaluates symptoms to ensure that the client gets better rather than worse, and provides higher insurance reimbursement for evidence-based practice.

Speak for yourself and others

Jonah said that if new coping mechanisms or healthier aspects of daily life emerge during the lockdown, then maintaining these new habits and priorities can support mental health. They said, “All the major adjustments you made last year don’t need to disappear immediately or change back to the’before’ appearance.”

Pixie reminds those who are struggling to seek support from allies. If you have a documented disability (including mental health issues), the school and workplace must provide you with reasonable accommodations. If needed, consider requiring shorter shifts or longer breaks to attend treatment appointments or support groups. Pixie said: “Think creatively, because you can ask for anything.”

Jonah explained that one of the most difficult parts of sharing their mental health problems is that friends and allies often don’t know how to react. They urge people to avoid using embarrassing and sympathetic statements, provide encouraging words, try to connect with the experiences of others, or provide unsolicited advice. Instead, they emphasize the importance of listening without judgment.

Pixie emphasized that one of the most important things society can do to support mental health is to recognize that structural oppression is one of the main factors that negatively affect mental health.

They emphasized that those with chronic and pre-existing mental health problems know how best other people can support them-but how to help depends on allies. They said: “When we create a system that does not benefit everyone, we deprive people of their agency. In this case, the best thing we can do is to return power to those who need it. .”

What this means to you

If you have experienced mental health issues before the pandemic, you may need continued or more support as the world reopens. Since the cultural shift in mental health perceptions began during the isolation period, your workplace, school, or support network may be more open in terms of giving flexibility and adapting to needs.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.