How COVID-19 Changed the Way People View Mental Health

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The height of the COVID-19 pandemic was marked by stay-at-home orders, social distancing, masking, increased hospitalizations, and the deaths of millions of people worldwide. These challenges also created uncertainty, contributing to increased unemployment, housing insecurity, and loneliness.

Even after a return to most normal activities, the effects of the pandemic continued to exert a toll on how people live, work, learn, socialize, and view the world. People have moved, switched to remote work, or even quit their jobs.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had a significant impact on the world of mental health. In addition to taking a toll on the mental well-being of millions of Americans, many found new ways to cope, made major changes in their lives, and often turned to online therapy as treatment options shifted into the online space.

While researchers are still exploring the full scope of the pandemic's impact on mental health, evidence suggests that people often turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, anxiety, sadness, and uncertainty. Increased rates of eating disorders, depression, substance use, suicide, and domestic violence have all been attributed to the coronavirus pandemic.

This article explores some of the effects the pandemic had on our mental well-being, how we cope, and what that means for the way that we view mental health.

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We Tried Virtual Therapy

The abrupt onset of the pandemic disrupted the daily routines of people from all walks of life, including those of therapists and their clients. Since mental health professionals could no longer meet with their clients in person, it was a crash course in online therapy, also known as teletherapy.

Online therapy had been slowly increased prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but stay-at-home orders meant that many people had to adapt to an online format almost overnight, often with little to no experience.

While it signified a major shift in how people obtained mental health treatment, many people found that they enjoyed the convenience it offered. 

Research has also found that online therapy can be an effective treatment tool for a wide variety of mental health concerns, including anxiety, depression, and even substance use.

While many therapists have fully returned to providing face-to-face treatment, the shift brought on by the pandemic means that many professionals now augment in-person meetings with online options, whether it's an occasional video call or a regular blend of online and face-to-face sessions.

We Prioritized Self-Care

Many people turned to self-care routines to help deal with stress. The pandemic forced many people to spend time alone or with a small group of people, inspiring a need to learn, reflect, and learn how to spend time alone.

People who may not have struggled with mental health issues in the past suddenly found themselves confronted with anxieties they weren't used to, sadness they didn't know how to manage, and seemingly endless amounts of time to ruminate over their worries about their future and world at large.

Coping may have looked different for everyone, but it often focused on finding ways to maintain a routine during times of stress and developing self-care strategies. Common practices included exploring new hobbies, connecting with friends virtually, and spending more time with close loved ones.

Even as people returned to different aspects of their pre-pandemic life such as work and school, many of these self-care skills have persisted. While those times were challenging, hopefully, many continue to utilize those abilities to continue to check in with themselves and care for their well-being.

We Fought Stigma With Mental Health Awareness

There has long been a considerable stigma surrounding mental health conditions. Negative attitudes, stereotypes, and even outright discrimination often lead people to avoid talking about their symptoms and can reduce the likelihood that people seek treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic may have played a part in destigmatizing mental health to a certain degree.

The pandemic also contributed to an increased focus on mental health, since so many were dealing with struggles and talking about them opening online. Even people who had never dealt with anxiety, depression, substance use, or other issues were struggling, which lead many to seek information and talk about these challenges on social media.

The COVID-19 pandemic helped inspire more conversations about the importance of mental health and how individuals, families, employers, and communities can help offer support to people when they need it.

One survey conducted in 2021 found that 82% of Americans now say that mental health is just as important as physical health. Approximately a third of respondents also said that while the pandemic was hard, it also help make them emotionally stronger by increasing empathy, improving positive coping skills, and boosting their desire to help others.


The challenges of the pandemic may have played a role in destigmatizing mental health and therapy. As people became more willing to talk about their feelings, they also advocated for the importance of self-care, therapy, and help for those with mental health conditions.

We Gained New Appreciation for the Outdoors

For many people, stay-at-home orders and quarantines also helped foster a greater appreciation for the benefits and rewards of the outdoors. After spending days or even weeks cooped up indoors, some socially distanced time outside was a welcome reprieve for many.

Getting outside—whether it was to walk, bike, fish, swim, or hike—may have helped improve mental well-being and cope with stress in a number of ways. 

Experts suggest that exposure to nature can have a host of mental health benefits, including decreased stress, better mood, increased empathy, and a reduced risk for mental health conditions.

One 2019 study found that spending time in nature was associated with greater happiness, more positive social interactions, and better overall subjective well-being. People who spend more time outside also report experiencing less mental distress and are more likely to have a greater sense of purpose in life.


While staying home, quarantining, and socially distancing may have changed the rhythms of everyday life, finding creative ways to get outside, even in your own backyard or neighborhood, may have had a protective effect on your emotional health.

A Word From Verywell

Even has many aspects of life have returned to what is now the new normal, the pandemic will have a lingering effect on the world of mental health. Online therapy will remain common as people continue to enjoy the convenience and other advantages it provides. And many of the lessons that we have learned during this difficult time, from the need for self-care to the importance of talking openly about our problems, will continue to guide us toward better well-being for years to come.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. CDC. Coping with stress.

  2. Gude J, Subhedar RV, Zhang MH, et al. Emerging needs and viability of telepsychiatry during and post COVID-19 era: A literature reviewCureus. 2021;13(8): e16974. doi:10.7759/cureus.16974

  3. Cleveland Clinic. The pandemic effect: Mental health is just as important as physical health, say 82% of Americans.

  4. American Psychological Association. Nurtured by nature.

  5. Bratman GN, Anderson CB, Berman MG, et al. Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective. Sci Adv. 2019;5(7):eaax0903. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax0903

By Kristen Fuller, MD
Kristen Fuller is a physician, a successful clinical mental health writer, and author. She specializes in addiction, substance abuse, and eating disorders.