The country’s collective mental health took a nosedive in 2020, with four in 10 adults reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder during the first year of the pandemic. The figure might not be surprising, but it represents a substantial jump over the one in 10 adults who experienced similar issues in 2019.
But while the number of individuals with mental health issues has continued to rise during 2021, the year has brought with it some positive news, according to a new report from Verywell Mind. It found that even though many stressors remain – financial concerns, increased suicide ideation among young people, addiction issues, Zoom and work-from-home fatigue, even climate anxiety – a host of solutions have emerged to help people contend with them.
The report found that people are increasingly more likely to sign up for therapy – and are becoming more open-minded to alternative treatments, like psychedelics.
“A lot of people reached out for therapy for the first time ever,” said Verywell Mind editor-in-chief Amy Morin.
One issue that stood out to Morin was the “great resignation,” a rise in people quitting their jobs during the second year of the pandemic.
“During the first year of the pandemic, a lot of people liked working from home. But this year we heard people saying they were struggling,” Morin explained. “They’re dealing with all these different workplace scenarios that we’ve never dealt with before.”
Along with work-from-home burnout, the report found considerable strain in relationships during the extended pandemic period. They also appeared more concerned about finances than COVID-19, Morin noted.
In addition, Verywell has been monitoring an issue Morin expects to be top-of-mind long after the pandemic ends: the climate crisis.
“I was getting a lot of requests for interviews about climate anxiety, about the effect the pandemic had on the climate and about what’s going to happen when everything goes back to normal,” Morin said.
Beyond people seeking out therapy for the first time, other solutions presented themselves. For example, more people are becoming open-minded to non-traditional treatments, like psychedelics and ketamine.
“People really want to know about this. If they don’t want to take antidepressants, ‘Can I try ketamine? Is this stuff legal?’ Et cetera,” Morin explained.
Morin believes an increased spotlight on mental health in conversations with celebrities, athletes and other high-profile individuals has led to a greater sense of empathy around these issues. Healthcare communicators who aim to connect with patients in the behavioral health sphere should take note.
“We started putting more information like that on our site, saying that everyone struggles with mental health, including all these athletes with great discipline,” Morin said. “We’re much more compassionate this year, in that nobody’s immune to depression and anxiety.
“We’re also realizing we can be proactive about managing our mental health. We don’t have to wait until we’re sick,” she continued. “Instead, we can all take steps every single day to manage our mental health similarly to how we manage our physical health.”