The losses and uncertainty associated with COVID-19 have led to a mental health crisis. Here is how to help you.

As a psychiatrist, my most common patients during the pandemic were working mothers trying to manage a full-time job at home while being primarily responsible for the children at home. Most report feeling irritable with low energy, difficulty concentrating, uncontrollable emotions, guilt over perceived privileges, loss of interest in past hobbies, general lack of motivation, and thoughts of being overwhelmed. death and the meaning of life.

They don’t know if they are suffering from clinical depression, but they feel incompetent at work and at home.

Their feelings are not unique. The National Center for Health Statistics and Census Bureau’s Household pulse survey shows that in the third week of July, 30 percent of adults exhibited symptoms of depressive disorder, up from 6.6 percent last year; 36% had symptoms of an anxiety disorder, up from 8.2% last year. Commonly affected groups appear to be women with children, young adults and the people who are in sexual and gender minority groups.

Many are traumatized by the generalized pandemic, grief over losses (whether it is about life, job security, relationships or old ways of life), legitimate fears of getting sick and lack of community and caregivers. In the background, all of them lack many typical ways to deal with such stressors, including workouts at the gym, vacations, chatting at the office, and going out with friends – because, of course, , exercise, regular sleep, balanced diet, social contact and one routine can help reduce feelings of depression.

Beyond that, along with the medical need for unprecedented physical distancing comes deprivation of touch and social isolation – the latter being can compete with obesity in its ability to affect physical health. But, increasingly, the evidence suggests that video calls can help prevent depression. A study cyberpsychology examined the levels of connectivity between pairs across four types of communication (face-to-face, video chat, audio chat, and instant messaging). The highest levels of connectivity were in person, but they were only slightly higher than video chats.

As we all experience boredom and collective grief, we also need to understand that there is a specter of clinical depression and if you or a loved one does find yourself there, it’s time to seek help.

We all have bad days, but when times of sadness persist throughout the week and month and are severe enough to affect functioning, then perhaps it is time to consider asking for help. professional help. We need to shift our inner dialogue – and even our broader social understanding – to realize that while feeling depressed at times is a normal reaction to the extreme stress most people have experienced since the start of this pandemic, a normal reaction is not. doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help for it.

What should you do if you are feeling depressed and not sure if it is something serious that needs professional attention? Ask yourself how persistent and severe your symptoms are, and recognize the difference between sadness and depression.

Persistent, extreme despair and negative thoughts about self-esteem, like, “I’m horrible at this. “; “Why can’t I do this?” “; “I should be able to do this and it is clear that something is deeply broken in me”; “I can never be anything.” – should be seen as a sign of depression and a reason to seek help from a mental health professional.

Now is the time to question and prioritize our needs, not to ignore them for the supposed greater good.

For example, I have a patient who worked full time while looking after her children at home. She was full of guilt for not being “good enough” in any area of ​​her life because she denied her children access to normal social outings while not being as productive at work, but also resentful of her. his spouse and children.

Resentment is a sign that our emotional needs are not being met: instead of making our needs our own, we may find ourselves belittling them or being ashamed of them. Neither eliminates the needs themselves, but rather leaves us with anger when the needs remain unmet.

My patient, like everyone else, needs to feel safe, competent at work, and loving as a parent. Only after respecting the fact that she needs these things can she let go of her guilt and allow herself to seek realistic and creative solutions to meet her needs.

Her need for security justifies the refusal of her children to have guests in her house. His need to feel competent at work should allow him to have a discussion with his employer and to solve problems of temporary changes in productivity or work schedules. Her need to feel loving as a parent can guide her to consider enlisting outside help – a family member, friend, or other caregiver – while respecting her need for safety.

Sometimes depression and resentment can be a sign to ask yourself what your needs are and shamelessly accept them.

During this time, you can watch your own loved ones for signs of helplessness, hopelessness, and negative self-assessment. Then try to listen and validate the reasons for these feelings, while refraining from trying to correct the situation. We can let our loved ones know that their feelings are understandable while helping them stand back: yes, times are tough, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hard enough.

Depression can change the lens through which people see the world by focusing on the negative – as the limitations and freedoms lost during this period. Those of us fortunate enough to keep perspective can gently move them to a more balanced view it includes what can still be done in these times and the gratitude that goes with it.

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