Michigan prepares for long-term mental health effects of COVID-19 – Concentrate

Michigan prepares for long-term mental health effects of COVID-19 – Concentrate

This article is part of State of Health, a series about how Michigan communities are rising to address health challenges. It is made possible with funding from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.

COVID-19 has taken a tremendous toll on Michiganders’ mental health, and few families have gone unscathed. As of Dec. 1, nearly 1.5 million Michiganders have contracted the virus and over 25,000 have died. When the pandemic is finally in the past, its mental health impacts are expected to remain for the long term. Many of Michigan’s communities, mental health professionals, and researchers are already pursuing ways to prepare for this inevitability.

“Short-term, we’re seeing an increase in depression and anxiety in particular, up more than 5% in the last year. Normally, about 36% of Americans experience some anxiety and depression. Now it’s close to 42%,” says Kevin Fischer, executive director of the National Alliance for Mental Illness-Michigan (NAMI-MI). “Long-term, mental health impacts, specifically amongst young people, could be … a lot of depression and anxiety, unfortunately an increase in suicidal ideation, and an increase in substance use disorders, like the opioid epidemic that we were already facing pre-COVID.”

Preschool, elementary school, and junior high school students have been especially hard hit.

“As a society, we underestimated the impact that it would have on young people not being able to gather together with their friends, not being able to go to playdates or go to the park,” Fischer says. “An unexpected consequence is the trauma that young people have experienced. We’re really encouraging parents to not ignore this and not just assume it’s going to go away. Get professional help, if it’s needed. Do not underestimate the significance of this.”

Fischer notes that social isolation during the pandemic has also increased older adults’ risk for depression and suicide, especially if they have lost a spouse.

“We’re really encouraging family members to stay connected with their parents, grandparents, and so on,” he says. “Check in on them frequently.”

“This problem is beyond COVID”

Wayne State University (WSU) researchers Dr. Wassim Tarraf and Dr. Peter Lichtenberg have been examining how race, employment, and socioeconomic status intersect with pandemic-related stress, depression, and anxiety. Using U.S. census data to select study participants, they have been polling individuals about mental health changes every two weeks throughout the pandemic. They have found that people of color bear the heaviest mental health burden.

“This problem is beyond COVID. It was brought to the forefront by COVID,” Tarraf says. “These are historical, structural problems, and they require long-term, concerted effort to bring about equity and potentially liberate us from the weight of group differences that we’ve historically seen here in the U.S.”
Dr. Wassim Tarraf.
Perpetuated by institutional racism, social determinants of health such as lack of access to food, employment, housing, quality education, and transportation are proven drivers of poor physical and mental health, as is evidenced among communities of color.

“If there’s any lapse in the fragile improvement in the economic outlook that we’ve seen, it could have some major impacts,” Tarraf says.

In January 2021, Tarraf and …….

Source: https://www.secondwavemedia.com/features/covidmentalhealth12162021.aspx

Mental health