The COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented effects on our nation and global community is dominating headlines, but there’s a quiet crisis brewing under the surface that is not getting critical attention, yet. The pandemic is having a deep and less visible influence on our mental health and emotional wellbeing. If ignored, this emergent crisis could impact individuals, families and communities for decades to come.
While flattening the COVID-19 curve is extremely important, I am deeply concerned about this “second curve” that is quickly developing. As an advocate for the importance of physical and mental wellness for overall health, and someone whose family has been personally impacted by the devastating effects of mental illness, we must urgently work together to shatter the barriers preventing individuals from accessing mental health care.
We are living through unprecedented times of social distancing, isolation and economic uncertainty, which is causing a correlated increase in stress, anxiety and fear. CVS Health has seen a rapid rise in virtual mental health visits since March 1, as well as substantial increases in calls for help with psychological distress including anxiety, grief and loss, and trauma. Prescriptions for medications to treat depression and anxiety are on the rise.
This is particularly evident among frontline health care workers and research has already shown some of the debilitating impacts. Data from Wuhan, China shows that 50 percent of health care workers involved in the COVID-19 crisis reported at least mild depression.
Other members of our community are also being uniquely strained by this situation. Essential workers who help keep us safe and ensure basic services are at an increased risk for infection and report feeling deeply concerned, anxious and scared, according to the Harris Poll. Losing one’s job is also one of the top ten most stressful life events, so the estimated 22 million people who have filed for unemployment benefits already, and those who could lose their jobs in the coming months, are a top concern.