The Best Way to Take Care of Your Mental Health During the Pandemic
Opinion by Vivek H. Murthy and Alice T. Chen
As the US grapples with Covid-19, its economic fallout, and the continuing anguish of racial injustice, many of us are struggling with our mental health. A Census Bureau survey found that one in three Americans are now reporting symptoms of depression or anxiety -- more than three times the rate from a similar survey conducted in the first half of 2019.
It is no surprise that times of crisis affect our well-being. People experience mental health challenges due to economic downturns, natural disasters or other collective traumas. The surge in Covid-19 cases earlier this year may explain why a federal crisis hotline experienced an 891% increase in calls in March compared to the same period last year. To make matters worse, a critical way for us to reduce the spread of the virus is to physically distance ourselves from others -- our family, friends, coworkers, and communities. This is exacerbating the already widespread problem of loneliness, which is deeply harmful to both our mental and physical health. The tragic deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police — and the ensuing fight for racial justice — have added another layer of distress that is further compounded by the fact that African Americans and Latino Americans are three times as likely to get Covid-19 and twice as likely to die from it.
They are also more likely to have essential jobs that cannot be done from home and put them at higher risk of Covid-19 infection. As the US now sees infections and hospitalizations surging in new communities, the mental distress of it all will only continue. Those of us who are not experiencing severe acute symptoms from the stress of the moment are still affected in other ways. We may find we are more tired than usual and more likely to lose our tempers. We may eat more junk food and find it harder to concentrate at work and school.