How COVID-19 Changed the Way People View Mental Health

Stay-at-home orders, unemployment, loneliness, economic shutdowns, climbing death rates, mask-wearing, and social distancing were the theme of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. It took lives and livelihoods and changed how we work, go to school, interact with others, and view the world.

We stayed home, learned to adapt through virtual interactions, and found creative outlets for our time. Some learned new skills and drastically changed the way they make an income, while others had great difficulty making ends meet. Many struggled with feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety during the pandemic.

In some cases, people turned to alcohol, drugs, and unhealthy relationships with food as ways to deal with their feelings. Mental health, addiction, eating disorders, domestic abuse, and suicide increased during the pandemic. In addition to affecting how we cope, COVID-19 also changed the way we view mental health.

Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares how to cope with pandemic-related anxiety.

We Connected Virtually 

When COVID-19 began, the world had to quickly adapt. Both people seeking mental health care and mental health care providers had to immediately switch to online therapy, or teletherapy, despite little (or no) experience with it.

Before the pandemic, studies had already shown that online therapy is effective for many mental health concerns, but the pandemic solidified its importance, convenience, and effectiveness.

Overall, online therapy has changed the way we practice mental health. Mental health, eating disorders, and addiction services are now more available to anyone who has access to Wi-Fi.

We can connect with a therapist at any hour of the day from the comfort of our own homes. We can jump on a quick video call or chat to discuss rising anxious feelings instead of waiting weeks for an appointment. Our mental health can be addressed right away instead of having ongoing symptoms before we're able to find treatment—something that will continue in the future.

We Created Self-Care Routines 

It is nearly impossible to browse the Internet these days without coming across an article that addresses self-care. The pandemic forced many people to learn how to be still, to be okay with being alone, and to find ways to nurture their minds and bodies.

Even those who may not have thought much about their mental health in the past have learned more about how to care for themselves more deeply.

Practices such as cooking, exercising, connecting with our loved ones through virtual platforms, or learning new hobbies and pastimes helped us become more in tune with our feelings and emotions.

Hopefully, we can continue to practice self-care and take a solid inventory of our emotions and feelings throughout the day. 

We Embraced the Outdoors 

Because people could not travel or enjoy most social activities during the pandemic, people found creative ways to use their outdoor space. Whether it was biking, walking, fishing, or hiking, people fled into the wild outdoors (or their own backyards) to clear their heads and find peace.

Being in wide-open spaces not only allowed us to socially distance—it allowed us to connect with nature, an incredible coping mechanism. Learning to turn to outdoor experiences as healthy coping mechanisms is something we can utilize time and time again when we are stressed or feeling down.

We Destigmatized Mental Health

COVID-19 impacted our mental health and many individuals who lived full, successful lives before this pandemic were shaken to their core. Individuals who never imagined they would experience feelings of depression or anxiety are now learning that mental health disorders can affect anyone at any time.

We spoke out about our mental health on social media, shared our feelings, and advocated for therapy. As a result, we helped break down the stigma surrounding mental health and addiction.

This pandemic broke us down and showed us that we all are at risk for developing depression or a substance use disorder. Hopefully, we can continue to recognize and fight for access to mental health treatment. 

A Word From Verywell

Even as more people get the COVID-19 vaccine, the longer-term mental health effects of the pandemic will still need to addressed. We must continue to check in with ourselves and with each other, to fight for access to mental health treatment, and to find peace and self-care in our daily lives.

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