As Mental Health Month draws to a close, let us reflect on the state of mental health in 2021.
After over 14 months of isolated settings, social distancing measures, and heightened anxiety … it would be safe to assume that the scope of mental health looks vastly different than it did before February of 2020.
Per the CDC, “During August 19–31, 2020, through January 20–February 1, 2021, symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder increased significantly from 36.4% to 41.5%”
Tracy Liptak, Licensed Independent Social Worker and Southeastern Iowa Regional Behavioral Health Director for Optimae, said, “We’ve seen a significant increase in anxiety, depression, and PTSD.”
She went on to say, “Note that many people are reacting now, rather than earlier, and others may continue to experience a response to the pandemic in the days to come.”
This may be due to the fact that over the months, we grew acclimated to the daily routine of safety precautions … to the point where it became “the new normal.” Now, as things proceed to the normalcy we knew before (or at least, something that resembles it) we begin to realize the gravity of the last year, and prepare ourselves to move forward. That, for many of us, is a daunting task.
Lisa Kongable, a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified Prescriber for Optimae, said that in the past year, she has seen, “an increase in depressive disorders, and those that already have a psychiatric diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder , there has been a worsening of symptom level. I relate some of this to the social distancing, social isolation and restricted activity level options. Likewise, the impact COVID-19 has had on lifestyle behaviors and freedom to do things in society is another factor to consider.”
While the path forward might seem intimidating, it is the only way to go.
In regards to the future, Liptak said, “The pandemic has been a global trauma event, and it is normal to have reactions related to it. Each person’s response will be unique, as determined by their individual experience of the pandemic, as well as their history, physiology, and ways of coping. Please honor your own response, take proactive steps to care of yourself, and reach out for support when needed.”
Likewise, Kongable said, In regards to the future, that she advises individuals to, “Embrace and celebrate our return to “normalcy”, and give yourself time to adapt and re-sensitize yourself back into a social routine at a gradual pace that is comfortable and feels safe for you. Perhaps try out something new from what ‘COVID-19 times were.’’”
As the world takes steps further away from the “era of COVID,” let us keep our chins held high and proudly join our friends and family in reclaiming the aspects of our lives we hold most dear. As the anonymous quote says, “Do not let the shadows of your past darken the doorstep of your future.”