How experts say pandemic has impacted mental health

Experts weigh in on mental health crisis triggered by public health crisis

Mental health experts discuss pandemic's impact

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on each of our lives, especially when it comes to our mental health.

Amid the pandemic, many of us are facing challenges that are stressful, which can stir a lot of emotions. Even therapists and psychologists have been overwhelmed throughout this crisis, treating more patients than ever throughout the last year.

Survey: Nearly half of Americans say they experienced changes in physical, mental health amid pandemic

Over the course of the pandemic, psychologist Dr. Rose Moten says she has received more requests than ever in her 22 years of practice.

“It’s been extremely challenging, but it’s been rewarding because people are seeking the help,” Dr. Moten said. “I am pleased to know that people are not allowing themselves to suffer in silence.”

Detroit-based therapist Whitney Jenerette has had a similar experience throughout the pandemic, especially when it comes to the demand for couples therapy.

“For a lot of couples, they are in the home for the first time for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without ... the distraction of the workplace, or the distraction of going to hang out with friends after work ... you had that space apart,” Jenerette said. “So this is the first time that a lot of couples are seeing each other for this length of time consistently -- and for individuals who were already having difficulties in their marriage, this pandemic just really exacerbated that to a whole new level.”

The experts say the early stages of the pandemic, followed by the subsequent lockdowns, were difficult for everyone.

Moten says that it’s helpful for people to know that they aren’t the only one experiencing these struggles. Still, she says that the work is far from over.

“We’ve been in this crisis for over a year and, by definition, we can’t even really start the true healing process of recovering from trauma or crises until the crisis has passed,” Moten said. “So, a lot of the work that we’re doing now is just really maintenance and giving individuals tools to help them as we navigate through this crisis. The real work is going to come on the other side of this.”

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Dr. Moten says that she’s found many people who have never experienced any type of mental health crises are now struggling with anxiety and depression for the first time in their lives. She says doctors and counselors are taking the initiative to help meet their mental health and wellness needs head on.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone in some way, but every person’s experience is different.

Jenerette says she has worked with many clients who are resilient and willing to work and figure out where there problems lay. In order to really move forward, Dr. Moten says the best course of action is to come together as a community.

“As a community, as a whole, we have to implement not just the therapist, but we need to see our community come together as a whole, to implement mental health and mental wellness initiatives to help educate people on what they could potentially be going through, what they can actually get help for,” Moten said. “The beauty of all this is that we can all get past this, we can all heal from this, but it’s not going to happen unless people understand what exactly is happening to them.”

Related: Human resources offices brace for impact return to in-person work will have on mental health

The pandemic has been particularly difficult on children, who have been socially isolated, dealing with stressed out parents and learning from home.

“They’re not just falling behind academically,” Moten said. “They’re falling behind emotionally and socially and psychologically, and we have to put a lot of focus on helping these kids just regain some of these key developmental milestones that may have been missed during this time.”

Jenerette agrees, saying the impact the pandemic has had on children is something they likely can’t identify -- even their parents may not fully understand just yet.

“Unfortunately, we do have a road ahead,” she said.

New research from a U.S. Census Bureau survey conducted in February shows that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting the health in communities of color -- specifically when it comes to anxiety and depression.

More: Metro Detroit nonprofit offers mental health services to minority youth

Related: Experts examine mental health, neurological issues following recovery from COVID-19

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