Be aware of mental health as society re-opens
June 9, 2021
Mental health concerns were heightened throughout the pandemic. Now they’re being heightened again as the world slowly reopens after more than a year of stay-at-home and mask recommendations. Many are worried about pandemic exhaustion and re-entry anxiety while others remain unaware of mental health issues related to the virus.
“The mental health crisis we are coming into is going to give covid-19 a run for its money,” said Jeff Ditzenberger, operator of a mental health non-profit called Talking, Understanding, Growing, Supporting (TUGS) in Argyle, Wisconsin.
The virus has been in people’s faces every day for over a year and it’s wearing on them. Pair that with mask and vaccination debates and the pressure becomes overwhelming. Another major issue is people’s lack of acknowledgment of or awareness about mental health issues going on right around them.
“We are not talking enough about mental health issues,” he said. “We’ve seen an uptick but it’s nowhere near where it should be.”
Pandemic exhaustion is increasing as people are growing weary of wearing masks and hearing about vaccinations, and they’re tired of hearing about all the sickness and death. The rhetoric going on alongside the pandemic isn’t helping either, Ditzenberger said.
“Call rates in my office have gone up 160 percent,” he said. “Therapists everywhere are exhausted because more people are in need of their services.”
People who might have been having a little trouble dealing with issues in their lives pre-pandemic are now having a lot of trouble. And people who weren’t having any issues at all pre-pandemic are now having issues.
“People aren’t dealing with this stuff real well and there’s a reason for that,” he said. “We don’t teach how to deal with this stuff, with anxiety.”
Living in a mostly-virtual world for so long is causing re-entry anxiety as people begin to get back to their previous lifestyles. As everyone was forced to embrace online interactions, both personal and professional, it can be tough to go back to being with humans, Ditzenberger said.
“Masks hide smiles and smiles hide depression” he said. “During each of my online interactions, I request people show their faces. I want to see how people are doing, and I am the type of person who needs to read faces to check in with people.”
Being available to family members, friends and neighbors as much as possible is a great solution. It’s crucial to be mindful that everybody has a different opinion about these politicized issues and remember that nobody wishes to die, give someone else a virus or be called a murderer.
“At the end of the day, we’re all human,” Ditzenberger said. “Simply be kind. If you want to make a difference, be the difference. I want the world to talk about mental health as freely as we talk about covid-19, but we must be kind to each other as we do that.”