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Mental illness during COVID-19 is not a personal failure!

by Abby Rogerson

I am a 19-year-old college student pursuing a degree in music therapy at Shenandoah
University in Winchester, VA. Prior to even the appearance of COVID, I was struggling with my mental health; more specifically, I was suffering from extreme anxiety, sadness, and post-
traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a bad situation in my past. Then, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and turned the world on its head. Before we knew it, everyone was in quarantine to
help stop the spread of this disease. While others were experiencing the loneliness and boredom
associated with the confinements of quarantine, I was able to use this opportunity to seek out a
counselor and have regular appointments which provided the help I needed.

Before and after the epidemic, COVID-19 had a powerful hold on my anxiety. I began to
notice how my anxiety and the symptoms that accompany it affected me. Anxiety attacks,
weariness, hypervigilance, lethargy, unwelcome thoughts, and other symptoms plagued me. That
is why I am included in the figure that one in every thirteen persons in the world suffers from
anxiety.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says, one out of every thirteen people worldwide
suffers from anxiety (1). Despite the fact that COVID-19 contributed to the problem of mental
health difficulties, there was a ray of light in the convenience and accessibility of virtual
appointments from home for persons suffering from mental health concerns, such as me.

In fact, this was shown to be the case in adults aged ≥18 years across the United States
during June 24-30, 2020. Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or
behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder that
had a percentage of 30.9. Indications of trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TRSD) were linked to
the pandemic with 26.3% of respondents, as well as the 13.3 respondents that did excessive drug
usage to manage stress or emotions associated with COVID-19. Respondents aged 18-24 years 25.5
percent indicated having seriously pondered suicide in the 30 days before participating in the
study was 10.7 percent (3).

Many people’s mental health has been harmed as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and
the accompanying economic crisis, which has caused extra challenges for individuals that may
already be suffering from a mental illness or drug misuse issues. Throughout the pandemic,
around 4 in 10 people in the United States have had anxiety or depression disorder symptoms, a
proportion that has stayed relatively constant, up from one in ten people who had comparable
symptoms from January to June 2019. According to a KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020, many individuals are experiencing particular negative impacts on their mental health and well-being as a result of concern over COVID-19. (5)

While I was in therapy my therapist recommended that I journaled with journal prompts
from The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Some of the things I journaled about
were coping mechanisms with Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, ADD, and
depression episodes.

There are many organizations that are available to help with the problem of mental health
issues. One of them being The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a non-profit
dedicated to enhancing the lives of millions of people who are affected by mental illness. NAMI
provides advocacy, support, education, and awareness to individuals living with mental disorders
and their families in order to help them live better lives. (4).

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), like NAMI, is a mental
health advocacy organization. The ADAA is a worldwide nonprofit membership organization
dedicated to the avoidance, management, and eradication of anxiety, depression, Obsession
Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and co-occurring
disorders via educating, practice, and study (1).

I knew from the very beginning of covid I needed help, and I was fortunate enough to
receive it. Going to therapy during the pandemic helped me get over the difficult periods of
being kept in quarantine, feeling alone, and struggling with my mental health. For a brief
moment in time, however, I feared I would never get the treatment I needed. Travel proved to be
near impossible at the start of the pandemic, but once I had done some research online, I learned
that virtual therapy would help me. Taking the time to research my options really helped me because I was able to educate myself on the different options available to me and be able to pick the one that was the best option for me. And through that, I learned about NAMI which turned out to be the best option for me. I was able to do my sessions from the comfort of my own home.

It wasn’t like your typical face-to-face therapy session, but it was actually better for me in
the comfort of my own home because I was in a recognizable and safe space where I could be
myself without feeling uncomfortable and out of place in a space, I didn’t feel comfortable with,
and it was also easy and accessible because we were on lockdown during the pandemic. NAMI
as an organization has proved to help me a lot and is something I would’ve never found if I
hadn’t done my own research into online therapy.

NAMI provides all of these necessities and encourages people with mental illnesses to
get the help and support they need, such as therapy, journal prompts NAMIHelpline, and more.
They also provide readings on how people can better manage their mental illnesses and
struggles. Visit the NAMI website at nami.org for more information.

Resources:

  1. World Health Organization. (n.d.). Mental health. World Health Organization. Retrieved
    March 11, 2022, from https://www.who.int/health-topics/mental-health#tab=tab_1
  2. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). Anxiety disorders and
    depression research & treatment. Anxiety and Depression Association of America,
    ADAA. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://adaa.org/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, December 29). Mental health,
    substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic – United States,
    June 24–30, 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved March 11,
    2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm
  4. NAMI. (n.d.). What we do. NAMI. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from
    https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI/What-We-Do
  5. Nirmita Panchal, R. K., & 2021, F. (2021, July 20). The implications of COVID-19 for
    mental health and substance use. KFF. Retrieved March 11, 2022, from https://ww.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/the-implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/

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