Updated: Feb 13
The focus of World Mental Health Day, October 10, 2021, is on mental health during the COVID-19 Pandemic. This has been a stressful time for many people around the world, living with constant uncertainty and changing restrictions. Many people have lost ones. Others have been ill themselves, or cared for a loved one who has been ill. This pandemic is something we have never experienced before in our lifetime.
About This Year's Campaign.
According to the WHO, "On World Mental Health Day, 10 October, it will have been more than 18 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some countries, life is returning to some semblance of normality; in others, rates of transmission and hospital admissions remain high, disrupting the lives of families and communities.
In all countries, the pandemic has had a major impact on people’s mental health. Some groups, including health and other frontline workers, students, people living alone, and those with pre-existing mental health conditions, have been particularly affected. At the same time, a WHO survey conducted in mid-2020 clearly showed that services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders had been significantly disrupted during the pandemic."
There will be discussions and summits held throughout the world to discuss these topics, and many people are sharing their stories of how their mental health has been effected throughout the pandemic.
I personally have experienced the disruptions in mental healthcare during the pandemic. I am now seeing my 6th psychiatrist. At least two of mine have retired. One quit after 3 weeks. There is a huge need for services in community mental health, and increasingly it appears that this is becoming hard to fill.
"USA TODAY spoke with half a dozen mental health workers who told us the pandemic has been the most challenging year of their professional lives. Every one of them said they’d experienced symptoms of burnout. "
More people have been going to therapy during the pandemic than before, and some of us who were already going are going more often. Therapists are busier than ever before, and taking on more patients is taking its toll on them too. This is a mental health crisis on the rise.
Living With Trauma.
According to USA Today, "The pandemic has been a traumatic experience for many people, she said. Before the coronavirus she had a couple of clients coping with trauma, now she says she's seeing trauma on "a mass scale." "
Living through the pandemic is a difficult time for all of us. Therapists working many trauma patients don't get the same time to decompress that they would have before the pandemic. Now, they are constantly working with heavy loads of high-stress clients, and that can lead to burn out for them too.
Therapy is about relationship-building. And when your therapist abruptly quits, or leaves, without saying anything it can feel like a betrayl of trust. The person you have trusted with all of your secrets, trusted to help you, just leaves. For those of us with trauma, it would be going lightly to say we already have trust issues. Going through multiple providers in a short span of time can exacerbate those trust issues.
For those of us with PTSD, it can take multiple visits with a provider to open up about our trauma and to become comfortable enough with someone to undergo an intensive therapy like EMDR. Fortunately for me, my main therapist has stayed through all of this. Although, I don't get visits as often as I would like. Usually, I am still going every 2 weeks, but I have gone over a month during the pandemic.
However, like many other people in the US and around the world, I have run out of medications during the pandemic. If you have a mental health disorder, you probably know how devistating this can be. During the five days I was out of medications, I called my doctor's office, the pharmacy, and my therapist. I was sick to my stomach, crying, and not sleeping.
Another friend of mine posted on Facebook last week that her doctor has refused to see her again, and only gave her one refill on her medications. Even in better times, it could take up to 3 months to get seen by a new psychiatrist.
Helping Our Kids.
In addition to the struggles that many adults are going through in trying to find mental healthcare, children are struggling too.
I have previously written about COVID Stress in Kids, and ways that we can help to lessen the impact of the pandemic on all of our children. In addition to worrying about their health, many of our kids have experienced trauma due to the pandemic as well, and will reqire long term psychological care because of it.
According to the CDC, "Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) can affect children and young people directly and indirectly. Beyond getting sick, many young people’s social, emotional, and mental well-being has been impacted by the pandemic. Trauma faced at this developmental stage can continue to affect them across their lifespan.
Some of the challenges children and young people face during the COVID-19 pandemic relate to:
Changes in their routines (e.g., having to physically distance from family, friends, worship community)
Breaks in continuity of learning (e.g., virtual learning environments, technology access and connectivity issues)
Breaks in continuity of health care (e.g., missed well-child and immunization visits, limited access to mental, speech, and occupational health services)
Missed significant life events (e.g., grief of missing celebrations, vacation plans, and/or milestone life events)
Lost security and safety (e.g., housing and food insecurity, increased exposure to violence and online harms, threat of physical illness and uncertainty for the future)
CDC developed this COVID-19 Parental Resource Kit: Ensuring Children and Young People’s Social, Emotional, and Mental Well-being to help support parents, caregivers, and other adults serving children and young people in recognizing children and young people’s social, emotional, and mental health challenges and helping to ensure their well-being."
As parents, the more we can do to keep our children safe, healthy, and minimize the disruptions to their routines, the better. We can help our kids to remian Resilient through this difficult time that they are experiencing. It is important to be kind and gentle with them, and to show them as much love, caring and attention as possible.
The CDC webpage also provides a tool kit for parents, along with conversation starters to use in talking to kids of different ages about the pandemic. It is important to always be compassionate, reassuring, and fact based as much as possible. For the times when we don't know, it is ok to tell them that we don't know. As much as we struggle as parents, our kids are struggling more because they are completely dependent on adults, who may often be arguing about the right thing to do.
Personally, I believe that letting them be "normal kids" as much as they can at home, and have fun things to do, can help to partially ease the stress of the pandemic.
Seeking Therapy Online.
During the pandemic, there have also been many providers that have been able to offer online counseling. If you are looking for a therapist yourself, or one for your kids, you can check out these resources from Healthline.
Here is their top 10 list of online counseling services:
Best overall: Talkspace
Largest network of licensed counselors: BetterHelp
Best online therapy for cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Online-Therapy.com
Best online therapy for mental and physical health: Amwell
Best for online psychiatry: MDLive
Best online therapy for your budget: 7 Cups
Best online therapy for couples: ReGain
Best online therapy for teens: Teen Counseling
Best online therapy for LGBTQ: Pride Counseling
Best online therapy for single video sessions: Doctor on Demand
Take Time for Self Care.
Since this has been a hard year for all of us, and caregivers are likely to be self-sacrificing even in the best of times, remember that you can be at your best for your kids when you take care of yourself.
You can't pour from an empty cup. I can't say this often enough, you can't take good care of your kids when you are exhausted. It's like how they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask first on the airplane. You can't save someone else if you are passing out. That goes for self care too.
For more on ways to take care of yourself, check out my previous article on self care as a mom: There is more to self care than you think, setting boundaries is just one of them. Be sure you are getting balanced physical, mental, emotional and social self care. Being well rounded is a great way to re-charge, and when there is an area of your life that you are neglecting, it is bound to make itself known.
Also, remember that Compassion Fatigue can make us exhausted when it comes to taking care of anyone else (like our kids) which further hilights the importance of self care. It is easy for us, as care givers, to get burnt out. We want to be sure we are taking care of ourselves so that doesn't happen.
This year's world mental health day talks about normalizing seeking mental health treatment in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, because of the nature of the pandemic itself, we may see lasting traumatic effects because of COVID 19 for a long time to come.
For more information and resources about World Mental Health Day, check out their official site.
You can also read about How to find a therapist.
Let me know in the comments what you think about COVID and mental health, and what we can do to help our kids. If there are further topics you would like me to cover, please let me know that as well.
Also, if you have PTSD like I do, check out my ebook, Trauma Survivor's Guide to Coping With Panic Attacks. I have a live Q&A session on Tuesday at 11am MST. I would love to see you there, and to answer any questions that you may have.