According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of American adults with symptoms of depression or anxiety increased from 36.4 percent in August 2020 to 41.5 percent in February 2021.
The percentage of American adults who reported that their mental health care needs were unmet also increased from 9.2 percent in August 2020 to 11.7 percent in February 2021. Adults from the age of 18 to 29, as well as those whose level of education is lower than high school, experienced the largest percentage increases.
Experts from various institutions agree that keeping connections with family and friends while physically distancing helps ease the feelings of isolation and prolonged extreme stress that harm mental health.
Coping with Grief
As of March 31 this year, the U.S. reported more than half a million or 564,138 deaths from the coronavirus.
People experience heightened grief because their loved ones are dying away from them. They cannot embrace patients as they lay in the hospital. Family members cannot embrace or hold hands to comfort each other unless they are from the same household.
If you experience a death in the family during the pandemic, make sure that the funeral arrangements comply with CDC funeral guidance. Coordinate with everyone involved in the funeral and burial through virtual meetings or phone calls.
Consider changing some traditional rituals to safer alternatives such as holding a service only at the gravesite instead of having visitations at a funeral parlor. Limit attendance at the burial and share the event instead with other relatives and friends in real-time online.
When going to the cemetery, only those who belong in the same household should ride together in a vehicle. During the service, avoid sharing or passing around items such as candles, flowers, or prayer books. Avoid singing or chanting and those who insist must wear a mask and be more than six feet away from each other.
Rather than having a physical gathering with food in a house, hold an online memorial service to honor the deceased. You can prepare a video tribute and ask family members and close friends to share their memories of your dearly departed. You can also put up a website as a lasting memorial to the person.
If you have certain religious or cultural practices related to mourning, find ways to do these online as a community. Such communal rituals also have a soothing effect. Retrieve the deceased person’s belongings from the hospital or healthcare facility wearing gloves and disinfect each item according to CDC guidelines for specific materials.
Look out for yourself and other members of the family and close friends. If any of you show symptoms of having difficulty coping with grief, consult grief counselors or a mental health care provider.
People who did not lose a loved one also experience collective grief from what is happening across the nation and worldwide. This comes with anxiety that they or someone close to them can be next. They are also experiencing severe stress from worrying about finances—having enough money for food, rent or mortgage, bills, healthcare, retirement, and having increasing debt.
It is important to regularly keep in touch with your family and friends who do not live in your household. This is beneficial not only to them but also to you. Make regular phone calls or, better yet, video calls to chat and keep each other updated. You can do one-on-one calls and set up group video chats.
You can schedule online game sessions with family and with separate groups of friends. There are many free online games you can play such as over 20 card games in CardzMania, over 230 board games in the Board Game arena, and over a thousand games in Tabletopia. If you have elderly family members in the online session, choose games that are familiar to them, such as free online Bingo.
It will be fun to play simple games such as Simon Says or a scavenger hunt. Both will require participants to get up from their chairs and move. To inspire each other to do more physical activity, you can likewise schedule online workout sessions together.
Do not forget online celebrations of special events like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or engagements. You can add bachelor’s parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and gender reveal parties. The list can go on but the point is to always find something to celebrate and be thankful for. This will lift everyone’s spirits.
Intangible Method of Healing
Meaningful human connections are essential for mental health. Cultivating ties and nurturing relationships amid the physical distancing that Covid-19 requires is a vital part of coping with the pandemic. This intangible technique aids in recovery and healing.
Fortunately, advanced technology is available to keep family and friends virtually close while keeping everyone safe from the coronavirus.