New Year, New Mental Health

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With solitude and seclusion becoming the norm in the pandemic, taking care of mental health becomes more important.

Diane Kim

     Due to COVID-19 along with other numerous struggles many faced in 2020, mental health has become an increasingly immense problem nationwide. Whether the issue stems from loneliness or instability, many people are facing similar emotions and situations that cause anxiety and depression. Going into the new year, how might this issue change? As more news about current issues in America unfolds, it is hoped that mental health is tackled as a priority and does not get lost in the midst.

     The pandemic serves as one of the new but significant causes of the decline of mental health in 2020. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 26.3% of adults in a survey explained that the pandemic was a cause for their poor mental health, along with 13.3% who stated that their substance use was increased to deal with their emotions. This type of illness is categorized as a TSRD, or Trauma-or-Stressor-Related Disorder. Mental Health America also shares their statistics, showing how 93% more people took anxiety screening tests than those who took it in 2019. Though it might not be a surprise that many people were emotionally affected by the pandemic, the numbers are a serious wake up call in the severe effects in not just physical but mental health. 

     It has also been shown that the youth, ranging mainly from teens to young adults are being the most affected in mental health. At an age where school and social relationships are a part of everyday life, feeling lonely is one of the leading causes for this younger community. Especially for children who are developing social skills, the virtual setting hinders the ability to converse easily with others. Though it cannot be guaranteed that school will open back up this year, if it does, it could help to reduce the loneliness this age group faces. Aside from just holding onto hope and an optimistic perspective, it becomes more necessary to first allow easy access to resources that are nearby and available. According to Mental Health America, a whopping 60% of teens with depression do not receive treatment. Whether it might be due to financial issues or other personal reasons, it becomes urgent that treatment become more accessible or encouraged to be used. 

     Wilcox student Samantha Breen Tsang opens up about her personal experiences in trying to keep a positive mindset and avoid negative emotions going into the new year. Finding activities and new hobbies can be a fun way to ease the mind during a time of uncertainty. She states, “I’ve learned to stay positive during quarantine by doing entertaining things like cooking.” Even through little things or daily activities, staying active becomes crucial for building both a healthy body and mind. Samantha also learned the importance of keeping loved ones close, expressing, “I learned that it’s important to value the people who do care about you and appreciate them.” Staying social and reaching out online has become an even more vital form of communication than ever before. 

     With the recent release of the coronavirus vaccine, it is hoped that in mid-year, there will be more uplifting updates about coming back to the normalcy of everyday life. Due to the anxiety both uncertainty and anticipation might spur, there has been an increase of mental health awareness up this new year about how to cope during these tough times. The CDC offers plenty of ways that one might be able to do this. As mentioned before, one method to reduce anxiety surrounding the pandemic, politics, and other problems going into the new year is by taking to the helpful resources provided. Therapy, if accessible, and free 24-hour hotlines should be used whenever necessary for support. Therapy is available even in the form of new apps such as TalkSpace or TeenCounseling along with quick online screenings. Taking breaks from the news or other media also help to alleviate worries and stress. Along with sources of therapy, according to CNN News, improving physical health is linked with and just as important as mental health. Kristen Rogers from CNN states, “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.” As an increase in anxiety has led to an increase of people suffering from sleep apnea and insomnia, an important problem to tackle in the coming year is exercising and finding the motivation for a more healthy lifestyle. Even trying to hit a certain step count per day can serve as a small but significant goal. Like Breen Tsang did, one can also find something to do that brings joy or new appreciations. Reshaping America’s frame of mind becomes a priority this year.