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Mental Health Is One of the Biggest Pandemic Issues We’ll Face in 2021

With progress in efforts for Covid-19 vaccines and predictions for when the population will receive them, there seems to be a light at the end of the long, harrowing pandemic tunnel.

As the physical risks are better managed with vaccines, however, what will likely still remain is the indelible impact of the pandemic weighing on the collective psyche.
“The physical aspects of the pandemic are really visible,” said Lisa Carlson, the immediate past president of the American Public Health Association and an executive administrator at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “We have supply shortages and economic stress, fear of illness, all of our disrupted routines, but there’s a real grief in all of that.”

“We don’t have a vaccine for our mental health like we do for our physical health,” Carlson added. “So, it will take longer to come out of those challenges.”

Based on the mental struggles endured by so many this year, these are the issues mental health professionals anticipate coming to the fore in 2021.

Life was stressful before the pandemic, but new challenges have contributed an additional toll.

Carlson says focusing “on the basics to get sleep, to eat healthy meals, to move throughout the day, to spend time with pets and loved ones” are going to be critically important. “Taking care of ourselves and each other should be everybody’s focus as we go into 2021.”

Since more time at home has meant more snoozing for some, the strange “pandemic dreams” people chattered about this year have greater opportunities to pop up, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a pulmonary and sleep doctor and an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Since sleep quality is linked to mental health, getting enough sunlight for a normal circadian rhythm, developing a sleep routine and practicing relaxation techniques will be crucial in 2021.

Without support and accountability, some people’s recovery from eating disorders and substance use disorders has hit a wall.

The “collective trauma” people are experiencing “contributes to increased anxiety, depression and other mental health factors commonly associated with eating disorders,” said Chelsea Kronengold, the communications manager of the National Eating Disorders Association, via email.

For many, work is another source of mental challenge.

Pandemic-specific impacts on one’s livelihood and well-being are “expected to amplify the already declining mental health in US society,” said Jasmine Mena, an assistant professor of psychology at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

The mental burden of the pandemic has facilitated more honesty and empathy around mental health, which is key to dismantling the stigma that deters some individuals from seeking help.

Another positive is that more people have been either reaching out for help or serving others — whether it’s donating to an important cause, grocery shopping for neighbors or cheering on those who serve the public. Being kind has its own benefits for mental health.

Carlson said, “I really hope that above all, this is really the moment when we break down barriers to talking about mental health, because I think the most important thing we can do — as professionals and in our families and in our communities — is to talk about it.

“Every time we talk about public health, we should talk about mental health. And every time we talk about Covid-19, we should talk about mental health.”

Excerpted from “Mental health is one of the biggest pandemic issues we’ll face in 2021” on CNN. Read the full article online.

Source: CNN | Mental health is one of the biggest pandemic issues we’ll face in 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/01/04/health/mental-health-during-covid-19-2021-stress-wellness/index.html | © 2021 Cable News Network

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