FEATURE: how to navigate mental illness during the era of COVID-19

October 2, 2020

Most of us have never experienced something like the COVID-19 pandemic. Generation Z grew up watching their high school fantasies on a television; prom, graduation…it was all a promise. We all had plans; birthday parties to attend, SAT exams to take, plane tickets to make use of. Some of us had doctor appointments we needed to go to, we wanted to go to the gym, practice driving now that we have our licenses. To add the final, perfect detail to it all, we have no idea when it’s going to end. Some people say a month. Some say a year. Some say two years, and the very idea that we, as a generation, are not going to be able to experience our high school and college years the way that everyone else got to is a sad truth. 


We need to take cautious steps to protect our bodies, but it’s not just about our physical selves. From a mental health standpoint, what many people — not just the younger generations — are experiencing is loss, grief, a lack of motivation and fear. This era of other-worldly sorts is provoking a mental health pandemic that is worsening the quality of life for those already diagnosed, and this is implementing symptoms of depression and anxiety within our generations.


Suicide rates have been steadily rising in the US in the past decade. While there is not a statistical number that can be given for how many people have committed within this time of quarantine, there have been reports that suicide prevention centers have been flooded with far more calls than usual. The repercussions of social distancing only makes those with suicidal intentions more lonely, more isolated, and more likely to attempt taking their life. 

…prom, graduation…it was all a promise.

It is crucial — not only for your health, but for others’ — that everyone checks on their friends, especially if you know they suffer from a mental illness, are suicidal, harm themselves, or have attempted suicide before. If you yourself think you might or have planned to commit suicide, you should know that the extremeties of the coronavirus are completely temporary. Suicide, contrary to popular discussion, is not a selfish act, but it is not the right answer. There are numbers you can call, resources you can use, and people you can talk to, and there will be a day when we get to open our doors again.


Being stuck at home may be more dangerous for certain people. School, no matter how burdening it might be, is an escape for those who experience verbal, emotional, or physical abuse at home. Others might be a part of the millions of people in America facing unemployment and financial crisis, especially with the lack of aid our government is providing. Those left home with abuse, an economic issue, or anything else detrimental to their livelihoods are left struggling during this life-hiatus.


To ease the fears and anxiety you might be having, the best thing anyone can do is follow their state-distributed social distancing regulations as closely as possible. The harsh reality of it all is that if we don’t stay home, thoroughly limit contact with people outside of our households and follow the suggested hygienic recommendations, the impact of COVID-19 will last longer. If you are nervous, scared, anxious, the very best you can do is follow these guidelines, encourage others to do the same and remind yourself you’re doing your part to slow the spread. Consider sharing your anxieties with your family and friends. If you feel as though you need it, therapy is being offered virtually across the state and could be the right option for you.


These feelings of tiredness, a lack of motivation and a struggle to take care of yourself could be signs of grief. Studies have found these symptoms are pretty common among us all during this time, and they correspond exactly with the symptoms of grief. Whether you’ve lost someone to the virus or not, we have all lost something. You’ve lost human contact, a normal life, your routines, and most significantly, your general feeling of safety. It is indeed a loss, and this cycle we all seem to be going through that doesn’t allow us to have a normal sleep schedule, function “normally” or how we would like to is a product of grief. Remind yourself the next time you fail to do a workout or eat healthy or get a perfect score on a homework assignment that this is a hard time, and you deserve the slack. 


It is highly recommended if you feel this way, you try as hard as you can to replicate normal life: implement routines, pursue fun activities, talk to the people you love, and do not shame yourself if you don’t do it perfectly. The media has expressed to us all that we should be using this “extra time” to do all the things we didn’t have time to do before like learning guitar, learning a language, working out, getting better at this and getting better at that. The honest truth is, that between our homework assignments, other commitments and taking care of our families and ourselves, there might not actually be as much time. If learning guitar makes you happy, then do it. But if you feel guilty if you don’t practice thirty minutes a day like you promised you would, it’s not worth pursuing. During this time of intense emotions, more stress is not necessary.


Do the things you need to do to take care of yourself, your loved ones and your community. Every choice you make during the era of COVID-19 matters. Follow the rules, pursue what relaxes you and makes you happy and take care of the people you are especially worried about. Most importantly, feel what you need to feel because here is no shame. This is a confusing, weird and scary time, and the best thing you could possibly do is take care of your physical and mental health.


If you or a loved one is struggling with any of the following issues mentioned in this article, refer to the following hotlines:

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-80-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org for information

If you are unable to speak out loud due to an abuse situation, text LOVEIS to 22522

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About the Writer
Abigail Gallen is the Managing Editor of the Siren Website as well as the Director of Digital Content. A senior Writing and Publishing major from Pittsburgh, Abigail enjoys design and photography as well as writing relevant articles concerning global news, human rights, politics, and fashion.

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