30 Nov The Impact of Social Isolation on Mental Health
Social isolation, while a life-saving measure in recent years, has resulted in a massive uptick of anxiety, depression, and in some cases, trauma. The good news is that, yes, anxiety and depression rates both dropped as people were allowed to meet up with each other after being unable to in 2020 and part of 2021, but the fact is there will be ongoing repercussions to the safety measures and a lack of mental health services to cope with these issues. When epidemics do affect everyone, some effects leave long-lasting damage if not taken care of properly.
The Mental Health Legacy of Social Isolating
Just a few of the ways that social isolating and lockdown measures have impacted the mental health of people include:
Social Isolation: Social isolation, meaning time away from friends and family, from co-workers and strangers, all took its toll. Social isolation caused great strain on mental health as it removed many of our support systems. Both being able to get out, enjoy the day, and talk to others has led to lasting impacts that include social anxiety.
Housing Instability: Though evictions were prevented during the pandemic, the looming reality of being evicted in the future was there. Even in more mundane scenarios, many were faced with living full-time in a home that they did not enjoy. This could have been because it was far too small to comfortably live, or be because of cold, damp, drafts, mold, or a host of other issues that were more difficult to manage and fix during the pandemic.
Dangerous Environments: Those who lived in abusive environments were one of the groups most severely impacted by social isolation. Many were forced to spend more time with their abusers, and due to lockdown, also had to deal with a lack of social and support services if they were to try to get away from them. Abusive environments don’t only refer to physically abusive. Emotional and verbal abuse also takes its toll, and lockdowns forced victims into almost ongoing contact with their abusers.
Loss of Coping Mechanisms: Many people have coping mechanisms and small rituals that make their days better. These can be done with the purpose of self-care or because they simply enjoy them, from going out for breakfast once a week to going to an art gallery to doing yoga, and so on. Many of the coping mechanisms that worked because they were outside of the home were lost, and with them, the comfort and support that came with them.
The Need to Adapt to Accommodate
Mental health care needs greater investment and greater interest. The good news is that thanks to the many different levels of mental health professionals, there is greater variety, price points, and options than ever before. The stigma surrounding mental health care is also declining, with more people understanding the benefits and looking into receiving therapy for themselves.
Increase Mental Health Services
There is a much greater need to increase the number of mental health services and also improve the diversity and depth of the professional mental health community. While telehealth really took off during the pandemic, the increase in those who needed mental health and wellness services meant that a greater number of people suffered from reduced access to mental health services or were stuck on a waiting list. As there is reduced access to mental health and wellness services, people will suffer as a result. Therefore, if there is to be an increase in these services, getting more people to take on this career is vital.
Affordable online psychology degree options are a great place to start, especially as they can be completed at home and can also be fast-tracked if you have an existing degree you can transfer credits from. By offering more courses like this and encouraging more people to take them, there could be plenty more professionals available to help others in as little as six weeks, meaning the services offered can be widened and reach more people.
Increasing mental health professionals and encouraging them to find their own niche will enable more patients to find the perfect therapist or psychologist that offers the professional guidance they are looking for and the personal connection. A more diverse range of professionals will also positively impact the community, especially from neurodivergent people who can offer greater levels of insight and support for those with autism, ADHD, and other neurological differences.
As connection is one of the most critical aspects to whether therapy is success, it is important to not only increase diversity but also to work to improve directories. Patients should be able to not only find great options near them but to narrow down therapist options based on their own background and what they specialize in. Currently, there is a lack of a central directory, which means patients must rely on search engines to find and connect them to the right therapist. So, if a patient is seeking help because of financial troubles or instability, seeking out a therapist who specializes in this area can help. They don’t necessarily need a professional who is experienced in helping deal with domestic abuse situations.
There are many areas that a professional can find a niche, and within each niche, you will find plenty of people who need help. Every area of life can impact mental health in some ways. Take the following example. Financial instability has resulted in massive anxiety and depression, even with financial support. Being furloughed, fired, losing out on work, and generally having to adapt to a new work structure all caused severe anxiety and stress amongst people, and if they have never experienced this before, they won’t know how to cope.
Improve Insurance Support
More options and mental health coverage must be made mandatory and standard for insurance policies. Being unable to get the specific type of help, or only be able to receive substandard levels of care is not acceptable. There is a wide range of conditions, events, traumas, and more that require professional care. Even regular, daily therapy for those not in crisis can positively impact a person’s quality of life and productivity and should never be excluded from insurance policies.
Mental health has suffered due to social isolation, but that does not mean it has to leave lasting scars. Mental health and wellness services are more popular and relevant than ever. Facilitating all of this is an improved platform offered by all universities and online learning programs. Online degrees have never been better, allowing more people to transition into a new career or to progress and continue their careers with greater levels of education than ever before.
Online resources, online social tools, and more have all helped people adapt and will continue to support them through the transition into a post-COVID world.
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