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While the world takes on a global healthcare crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is another global risk that is flying under the radar for many people. Although individuals struggling with mental health may not have as many visible symptoms, the dangers and risks of increased mental health duress are still intense and can not be ignored. The increased isolation can have an effect on women's and men's sexual health, emotional health, and mental health, in addition to the physical risks it poses.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, however, for too long individuals dealing with mental health struggles have felt a stigma to hide that fact. While it's normal for somebody to take a day off from work when they are not feeling well, for example, it is not always as easy to take a mental health day despite the fact it is no less serious or genuine of a concern. The purpose of a mental health awareness month is to help raise awareness about mental health struggles and to provide important information that can help us to improve the way we handle mental health moving forward.
Nobody is immune from the effects of mental health struggles. It cuts across all ages, races and genders, and with 1 in 5 adults dealing with mental health troubles at some point in their life, if you haven't personally experienced mental health problems, you can be sure that people close to you have. It is vitally important that we continue to build the support structure we need as a society to provide for those who are having hard times to help them get through them and come out the other side in as positive a place as possible.
With the global pandemic, orders have been in place for individuals to shelter at home. While this is a crucial component in helping to maintain hospital levels below what the facilities are capable of handling by flattening the curve, it does pose some additional risks and it is also important to understand those risks, particularly for individuals who struggled with depression before the quarantine.
Spending an extended period of time at home with minimal outdoor activity and minimal interaction with people other than those you live with poses an increased risk of mental health struggles. Even people who have not previously experienced mental duress may find that the time in isolation has led to new struggles. Common factors contributing to increased difficulties include:
• Living in isolation can have a negative effect on your mental health and result in potentially intense feelings of loneliness.
• Many social distancing guidelines don't just call for avoiding visiting others, but also for significantly restricting time spent outdoors, resulting in decreased exposure to the sun and fresh air.
• The pandemic has led to significant layoffs and furloughs, and many other companies have shifted work to stay at home situations. This drastic change to established schedules can make it difficult to keep track of the days and weeks as they pass.
• Changes to your usual life can also have a significant effect on your established sleep and eating patterns, which can, in turn, have negative effects on your mental health.
• One concern that has been raised during quarantine is the increased rate of consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and recreational drugs, due to the decreased in responsibilities that require leaving the home paired with the increased stress of the pandemic.
If you or somebody you know is struggling with depression and other mental health concerns during the quarantine, the good news is there are ways to combat it. While in-person therapy may not currently be an option in much of the country, many practices are working remotely with their clients, taking a page out of the books of apps and websites that were already providing digitally remote therapy before the public health crisis.
Finding safe ways to get exercise is also helpful. Exercise helps your body generate chemicals like serotonin and can drastically improve your mental health. You can also speak with your doctor about the use of medication to regulate your levels. From general mental health medications to products that help with specific concerns that can be amplified by the stress of quarantine, such as Mt. Everest for individuals struggling with ED, medication can help you take on the negative effects of pandemic stress.
While the time we have spent in social isolation has been challenging, and it is likely still going to be many months before things are truly back to normal, by taking care of ourselves and others we can make the time as manageable as possible. Look out for your mental health needs, don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and stay in touch with friends and loved ones to check in with them during these difficult times.
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