COVID-19 vs Mental Health

Exsayana Flores
8 min readNov 19, 2020


When you think of 2020, the first thought that comes to mind is either COVID-19 or Global Pandemic. 2020 has been a year that no one saw coming, whether it be from testing positive for this virus or losing your job.

COVID-19 has had a greater impact on some rather than others. One group of people that was hit the worst are those that suffer from mental health illness or suicidal thoughts. Most of the time when you think mental health illness you correlate it with suicide. Being in a pandemic and having to quarantine has not helped anyone with these types of issues, and seem to be increasing day by day.

The first few months of the year when everything was shut down and expected to stay home was the worst part for everyone. The CDC reported that “from June 24–30 U.S adults reported mental health conditions in higher numbers dur to COVID-19.” People that suffer from mental illness were not taking the lockdown well at all. According to Kaiser Family Foundation, “prior to COVID-19, 1 in 5 U.S adults had a mental illness. During COVID-19, 1 in 3 U.S adults reported to have some sort of mental illness symptom of anxiety or depressive disorder.” According to the CDC, 40.9% of adults say that they’ve had at least one mental health effect. Those mental health effects were 30.9% anxiety and depression, 26.3% were trauma or stressor-related disorder, and starting or increasing substance use to cope was 13.3%.

Suicide thoughts was another factor that played in people who suffer from mental illness during the pandemic. KFF said, “in 2018 over 48,000 people had committed suicide and nearly 11 million had thoughts of suicide.” During the pandemic, 10.7%, or 35 million U.S adults reported of suicidal thoughts. KFF goes on to say, “Loneliness and isolation triggers mental health. Isolation is a risk for suicide.” Former U.S Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, told KFF, pointed out and spoke about the importance of loneliness as a public health concern. He mentioned how loneliness can reduced lifespan and greater risk of both mental health and physical illnesses. In the June survey conducted by the CDC it showed that suicide rates were higher among ages from 18–24 (25.5%), essential workers (21.7%), and minority racial/ethnic groups (18.6% Hispanic, 15.1% non-Hispanic Black).

One essential work that took her own life was Dr. Lorna M. Breen. She was the medical director of the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. Her father mentioned to The New York Times that Breen did not have a history of mental illness, but seemed to be getting detached in life by all the patients she saw who were dying before even getting taken out of the ambulances. Dr. Lawrence A. Melniker, the vice chair for quality care at the NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital told The New York Times, “coronavirus had presented mental health challenges for emergency physicians throughout New York, the epicenter of the crisis in the United States.” The coronavirus has effect so many people differently. As seen with Dr. Breen, not even having a mental illness, coronavirus can affect everyone and anyone.

Stress and worrying can also play a factor for those with mental illness, along with causing problems with their physical health. KFF mentioned, “that women often report negative mental health impacts due to worry and stress from the coronavirus than men.” There was a 57% vs. 50% ratio, in mid-July. Another study KFF did from April to July, showed that women were more likely to report having symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder than men in this time. Those numbers were 44.6% vs. 37.0% in the week of July 16–21.

The stress and worry that most people have been facing from the coronavirus could most likely be from losing their jobs and wondering how their bills are going to be paid for or support their family. The stress and worrying that they are facing can also cause them to turn to substances to give them a release of their problems for a little.

Tiana Onouye, a junior, at University of Nevada Las Vegas, age 21, is just one of many who suffers from mental illness. She suffers from bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression. “I knew I was sad all the time, but didn’t think too much of it. I noticed my sadness became worse when my best friend was killed due to a drunk driver,” said Onouye. She was diagnosed with her mental illnesses back in March 2020.

Quarantine and COVID-19 did not help Onouye and her state of mind as being alone only triggered her sadness because she had no one and only had time to dwell in her thoughts. “Suicide crossed my mind a lot over this past year especially during quarantine I cried every single day. It began to be so much that I would pass out and not wake up until it was dark out the next day. I tired committing suicide at the beginning of quarantine, but thankfully it didn’t work. I will never do that again,” said Onouye.

Since quarantine only made life worse for her, she decided to break the rules after the strict two weeks quarantine. “Well for the first few weeks I quarantined and obviously it was really really bad. I broke a lot of the rules during this period of time, I went out a lot and ended up quarantined with my best friend and her boyfriend at the time. It helped me a lot, but I was really unhealthy and did a lot of things, kind of dabbled in substance abuse. It was bad” said Onouye.

Mental illness and suicide aren’t the only thing that is rising during this pandemic, substance abuse is also rising in numbers. According to KPP, “a recent study found that 13.3% of U.S adults reported new or increased substance use as a way to manage stress due to the coronavirus.” Onouye is just one of those people who have seen their substance abuse rise. “I did a lot of cocaine every day from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. I also did shrooms often, but not as much as coke” Onouye said.

Baptist Health South Florida did a study back in September, that reported in the states that were hit the hardest from coronavirus such as, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, “67% reported an increase in past month alcohol consumption, with 25% reporting a significant increase.” Baptist Health South Florida asked the participates why they consumed the substances within the month and the participates had said, “53% were trying to cope with stress, 39% were trying to relieve boredom and 32% were trying to cope with mental health symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.”

Rachel V.F. Rohaidy, M.D., a Baptist Health psychiatrist explained how she thinks technology played a part in why substance abuse is going up during this time. People are now able to just order things online and have them delivered or packaged and ready for pickup.

According to a study quoted in Reuters, “many COVID-19 survivors are likely to be at greater risk of developing mental illness, after a large study found 20% of those infected with the coronavirus are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days. They took 69 million people from the United States, more than 62,000 of those cases were of COVID-19. The study also showed that anxiety, depression and insomnia were the most common the COVID-19 patients who recovered and developed mental health problems. A professor of psychiatry at Oxford said, “People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings… show this to be likely.”

In the three months that someone has tested positive, 1 in 5 survivors said that they have anxiety, depression or insomnia for the first time ever. The study also showed that people that already had a mental health issue were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than someone who does not suffer from a mental illness.

The study also mentioned that mental health specialists said what they found added to evidence that COVID-19 can affect the brain and mind which can increase the risk of psychiatric illnesses. A consultant psychiatrist at University College London, named Michal Bloomfield told Reuters, “This is likely due to a combination of the psychological stressors associated with this particular pandemic and the physical effects of the illness.”

Mayo Clinic, which is a #1 hospital in Arizona gave some strategies on how to cope with your mental health and self-care. Some of their self-care strategies were getting enough sleep. Sticking to a your typical schedule before coronavirus is good for your body and mental health, even if you are staying at home. Having regular physical exercise and activity reduces stress and anxiety. Going for a walk and getting some steps in increases your daily mood and improves your mental status. Eating healthy and having a well-balanced diet, is another great self-care strategy. Even though during this time some people are falling to some substances, Mayo Clinic said avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drugs helps with self-care. Using substances increases your stress, anxiety and other mental health illnesses. Another self-care is limiting your screen time. Turn off your electronic devices for a little each day. Especially before you’re about to get some sleep. Watching the media increases your anxiety, stress and mental illness. You want to set aside time for your own relaxing time. Whether it be reading a book, going outside and getting some fresh air, meditating, or getting in a nice hot bubble bath. There are many ways to get your alone time. Finding time out of your day to relax and reflect on your life and on yourself is so important for your mental health.

Even though we technically can’t see our friends or loved ones as much as we use to. Finding time out of your day to connect and talk to your friends and loved ones such as facetime, phone calls, texting, zoom and other ways can improve your mood. We live in a time where there are many ways to talk to others now, just chose the way you want and starting talking.

If more help is needed outside of these self-care strategies, get help. There is so much help out now, because everyone knows that times are extremely tough right now. Even though some clinics aren’t seeing people in person, they do host zoom or phone calls. There are also hotlines that can help, such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the suicide hotline, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Some or most people feel that they don’t need to speak about their mental illness and think they can handle their stuff by themselves. Getting help is not wrong and doesn’t make you look weak. Times are extremely tough right now and even those without being diagnosed with a mental illness are feeling the stress and feeling the pressure of this pandemic. A Mind Cymru survey was done with 900 people and a third of adults and a quarter of young people said they did not get medical help because they did not think they deserved it.

One of those that struggled to talk about his mental illness was Carl Morgan from Newport, California who commit suicide at the age of 43 back in July. His wife, Rainbow Chicharro told BBC News, “he struggled to talk and you would never have known Carl was suffering on the inside because even when he was at his lowest ebb, he would always have a smile for everybody. He would always put everybody else first before himself.” This story shows, to always make sure to check in on everyone, especially right now. Just because someone looks happy on the outside, doesn’t mean they’re happy on the inside.