Almost 70 percent of Americans say that living through the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.
With the emotional strain of lockdown measures, health concerns, financial woes, political instability, and in too many cases the tragic loss of loved ones, the past 14 months have fueled a secondary crisis — a collective decline in our mental health. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, four in ten U.S. adults report symptoms of anxiety or depression. This rate is up from one in ten in 2019.
Even more Americans say they’ve struggled to manage the year’s stresses. There has been an uptick in substance abuse, sleeping problems, and undesired weight changes. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), these symptoms often reflect mental health challenges that may worsen without treatment.
But more than half of people with a mental health condition don’t receive help. That’s why this year, on May 20, organizations around the country are coming together for the first-ever Mental Health Action Day.
More people than ever recognize the importance of caring for mental health. Yet stigma about mental conditions still persists. From worries about peer judgment to systemic societal and institutional biases, barriers to seeking treatment for mental health concerns keep people from getting care.
For example, a recent survey found that 66 percent of people say they’ve discussed mental health with a coworker. But less than half feel comfortable talking to their managers — and only 38 percent have received information about mental health coverage from their employer.
These patterns are bleaker for low-income Americans and communities of color. Social discrimination, job insecurity, and poverty are all linked to greater rates of mental illness. At the same time, historically marginalized communities also have disproportionately lower access to mental health resources.
Mental Health Action Day strives to overcome these obstacles. It aims to normalize conversations about mental health, and then to turn awareness into action by:
• Amplifying the dialogue among friends, family members, coworkers, and the general public
• Providing tangible tools and resources for all communities
• Motivating advocacy to expand access to mental healthcare
Mental Health Action Day will feature activities, from organizations across the U.S., in support of efforts to improve our collective mental health.
Everyone is invited to contribute to this cause. On Thursday, May 20, add to the momentum of Mental Health Action Day by:
Slow down and take stock of how you’ve been feeling — while recognizing that mental health changes go beyond shifting moods.
For example, the APA says that high stress levels can lead to trouble sleeping, headaches, appetite changes, difficulty concentrating, and more. If stressors are left unaddressed, these problems can evolve into longer-term mental health conditions.
If you’ve been ignoring that meditation app for the past year, use the day to take your first step. A wide body of research shows that mindfulness activities improve our mental well-being.
While meditation is commonly touted as a mindfulness practice, there are many ways to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life, such as:
• Joining a yoga or exercise class
• Gardening or walking in nature
• Drawing, coloring, cooking, and other creative activities
Whether you reach out to a friend, post on social media, or join a support program, sharing your story is a powerful mental health tool. Stories connect us over shared struggles while helping to normalize conversations about mental health.
This approach can help you process your own mental health challenges. But creating a common ground also encourages others to validate their feelings. This can motivate people who otherwise might not seek help to take action.
Mental Health Action Day is also an opportunity to look outward. Societal changes like ensuring equitable access to resources take a million small steps, such as:
• Sharing resources with family, friends, and coworkers
• Joining a peer support program
• Volunteering your time and skills to an organization dedicated to expanding mental healthcare access
The movement’s prevailing message is that no one should be alone in facing mental health challenges. If you’re having trouble — whether it’s pandemic-related stress or feelings of grief after a tragic loss — don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Your feelings are valid, and there’s no minimum “struggle requirement” to benefit from therapy.
Do your part for Mental Health Action Day by taking action for yourself. At Carbon Health, our team of mental health experts is here to help you solve problems, overcome stress, and develop stronger ways to manage your mental health. We offer virtual appointments (currently available only in California), so you can access the support you need from anywhere.