Stopping the spread of COVID-19 has demanded millions across the United States isolate themselves and entirely change their lifestyles.
However, the mere knowledge of the importance of these alterations for saving lives doesn’t make them easy for all of us. One poll even found that nearly half of Americans claim their mental health has been harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Indeed, being confined in a space with a small group of people is not conducive to the mental health of many. I, like everyone else, greatly miss my friends. While I love my family dearly, it is almost just as difficult to be indefinitely stuck with them. Additionally, I had grown accustomed to the privacy and independence I had at college that I must forfeit at home. I know for a fact that many other college students hold similar sentiments.
But, of course, isolation is not the only stressful factor about the pandemic: The virus has mandated that we change nearly all aspects of our lives. Working and studying from home demands that we endeavor to adapt to formats that may not be conducive to our productivity. Every run to the grocery store, as my mom puts it, is like playing a game of Russian roulette. You never know which outing will be the one that infects you. And that is another matter in itself: COVID-19 can be fatal. The very prospect of our loved ones or ourselves contracting the disease is like having a gun to the head — It is justifiably a major stress factor for many. For those to whom this has already happened, nothing less than society’s greatest condolences are mandated.
In short, this is a very sad, stressful and generally mentally tough time for a lot of people. As such, we must systematically respond to the mental health crises caused by the pandemic. Governments must ensure that mental health resources are as available as possible. Fortunately, that is already happening to some degree: New York, for example, has mustered 8,000 mental health professionals to help residents who need it. China moved mental health workers to Wuhan rapidly at the pandemic’s outset. Even Ohio has expanded mental health resources during this time.
Still, as is commonly the case in this country, government responses are unreliable and uneven. Furthermore, with our medical system already saturated because of COVID-19, much of the burden of coping with the mental health fallout of the pandemic will fall on the public. That is tragic because mental health issues, by their very nature, cannot be addressed by individual efforts alone. People facing mental health crises need others’ help. Therefore, our roles as friends, family members, neighbors, coworkers, classmates and fellow Americans are more crucial than ever.
We must check-in with those who are important to us. Sending memes, a quick call or even a simple “How’s it going?” can go far. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide a page with useful information on mental healthcare resources and techniques during the outbreak. Most importantly, among these recommendations, are keeping a healthy lifestyle with diet and exercising, getting rest and trying new things.
These alterations to our lives have certainly given us the opportunity to try new things. I, for example, have found new music, attempted to study German, written more and have been more physically active. At the same time, the quarantine provides us with a unique chance to take a break from the normal routine of life.
While framing the quarantine in this way has been useful for me, different things work — and don’t work — for different people. Ultimately, finding what works for you may require experimentation, and even then, some may never get to a place where they are fully mentally healthy during the quarantine. At that point, it becomes a matter of trying to maintain the perspective that this is temporary and minimizing the negative effects we feel.
For those experiencing great pain, it is important to remember you are not alone. Seek out people to talk to, even if you can only do so electronically. In Ohio and elsewhere, there are ways in which you can access help on the phone and online. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, and that organization also has an online chat function. Now more than ever, it is so important that we take care of ourselves and each other.
Sam Smith is a junior studying geography at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Sam know by tweeting him @sambobsmith_.