Pandemic-Related Stress Is on the Rise — But Many Aren’t Seeking Help
Americans are reporting higher levels of general stress than in recent years. Yet behavioral health-related emergency room visits are down. Here’s why that’s concerning.
By Tomislav Mihaljevic, MD, President and CEO
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While the physical toll of the coronavirus pandemic has been well documented, the mental health impact has been less apparent.
There are the obvious concerns that people have about getting sick with COVID-19, but the pandemic has increased other stressors as well. Isolation. Disrupted routines for both children and adults. Concerns about jobs and personal finances. Lack of access to basic necessities like food and housing. Missing major milestones like weddings and graduations. The stress of managing childcare and children’s education.
Add to this the societal upheaval in the fight against racism, and it’s no wonder Americans are feeling stressed.
In the midst of all of this suffering, researchers have uncovered a deeply concerning trend. A new study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine shows that suicide-related emergency department visits in Ohio dropped 60% one month after the state issued stay-at-home orders. The study also reported a 28% decrease in behavioral health-related emergency department visits and a 14% decrease in alcohol-related visits.
As stressors increase, we would expect to see an associated increase in mental health-related visits. The fact that we are not is troubling and could signal an impending mental health crisis.
If you’re feeling overly stressed or depressed, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Reach out to your healthcare provider for an appointment. Hospitals are taking many safety precautions and are among the safest places you can visit during the pandemic. Many healthcare providers are also offering virtual visits so that you can get professional help without leaving your house.
According to the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in America survey, many Americans are experiencing considerable pandemic-related stress and are reporting higher levels of general stress than in recent years. This is especially true for people of color.
A second APA survey found that more than 8 in 10 Americans (83%) say the future of our nation is a significant source of stress. That’s much higher than the 69% of people who said they felt that way in 2018.
Eventually, mental and emotional stress can manifest itself physically. In fact, a new study by Cleveland Clinic researchers found a significant increase in the prevalence of stress cardiomyopathy, which is also known as broken heart syndrome and describes dysfunction or failure in the heart muscle, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In times like these, it’s important that we take care of ourselves and each other. At Cleveland Clinic, our goal is to treat each other like family. We’ve provided as much support as possible to all of our employees, by providing a safe workspace, offering mental health counseling and support, and establishing resources for housing, financial and childcare needs.
After all, we — employers, employees, coworkers, friends, loved ones and neighbors — are all in this together.