Roughly 17 million American adults reported at least one depressive episode back in 2017, and the same was true of three million adolescents.
Data from the National Alliance for Mental Illness suggests that there are currently 40 million Americans living with a diagnosed anxiety disorder.
When a sizeable portion of the population requires medical intervention to steady a smile, and a devastating health crisis absorbs the entirety of clinical attention, any and all aggravators increase in lethality.
“There is still little data on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the suicide rate,” says Amy Ghaemmaghami, Director of Outpatient Behavioral Health at Augusta Health. “During a stressful time like the pandemic, though, the feelings of fear and anxiety, sadness, and loneliness, can become constant and overwhelming.”
Not unlike seasonal affective disorders that occur in response to decreased sunlight, an ill-defined return to normalcy appears to be draining national morale.
With Pfizer and Moderna each nearing successful vaccine doses, Americans are left wondering how long isolation will be a tenable feature of the status quo.
As it stands, every sector of American life is both frozen and melting. But that doesn’t mean pillars established to manage our moods have lost their potency.
“In my practice I have never been so busy, Everybody calls up and thinks they’re unique, but everybody seems to be very anxious and depressed,” Martin Klein, a Connecticut-based clinical psychologist in private practice who specializes in seasonal depression, told Discover Magazine.
Klien went on to say that nearly 80% of Americans are struggling with some form of depression or stress since the pandemic began back in March.
Those who have not been directly impacted by the novel coronavirus are likely growing tired of an oppressive news cycle comprised of death tallies and congressional incompetence. Those who have lost someone to COVID-19 or fought the illness themselves are just as likely growing tired of trying to convince people to take the deadly virus seriously.
In an increasingly divisive era, it’s more important than ever to check in on relatives and friends who have a history of mental illness, especially as we enter what health officials have dubbed the “dark winter.”
“People have seasonal affective disorder, now they have pandemic affective disorder which is seasonal affective disorder on steroids,” Klein continued. “I think it’s a very rational response right now, to feel very stressed out with all the political unrest and the pandemic and not being able to go outside, and I think the winter is going to be very, very tough.”
The outdoor policies developed by hospitality establishments in the summer didn’t just serve economic stability. To compensate for another indefinite period of seclusion, consider working around traditional patterns of communication.
This doesn’t have to mean Zoom or google meet, which has been co-opted by the workforce.
Things like writing letters and collaborating on creative projects at once fulfill a need for direction and meet criteria important to social health. Even bad art has the potential to reveal things about our relationships with the world around us.
It additionally provides a sense of control that pandemicers have become so omnivorous for.
The same can be said of small day to day victories. Even with a threat to fail life as formidable as Covid, there are achievable interactions that pose little risk that might have been hitherto under-appreciated.
Many survivors talk about testing negative for the first time and getting more out of phone conversations than they used to.
Moreover, there is a lot of ground to be made on behalf of clinical depression research but we’ve also come along way; with a long list of therapeutics designed to address conditions thought to be imaginary a few short decades ago.
“Light boxes used for this therapeutic function are around 10,000 lux, and prolonged exposure to them for around 30 minutes can help maintain a more positive mood and healthier circadian rhythm,” It’s also important to keep up social connections during the winter, even if only through virtual methods. Duckworth says that interacting with people and staying engaged can have a positive impact on both pandemic and seasonal induced depression,” health writer, Will Chapman wrote in response to rising depression rates.
“It’s very important to check on your friends, family and neighbors to make sure they are doing well—physically, mentally and emotionally,” adds Ghaemmaghami. “And if you feel overwhelmed yourself, reach out to your friends, family or neighbors or call a health professional. We want you to know that you are not alone. We are here to help.”