I know I’m in danger of becoming a broken record at this point: “Covid has changed the way we view mental health, mental health is different now, Covid-19 and mental health have a deep relationship…”
But the thing is, it’s true. Our treatment of mental health has changed drastically since the start of the pandemic— and that itself is an extension of the movement for better mental health treatment that has been going on for many years.
So today, let’s take a look at some of the ways in which Covid has affected mental health— not all of its negative effects, although those are certainly important. Instead, let’s talk about the positive changes that have occurred, because sometimes, you just need to be reminded of the good things.
Let’s talk about it
One of the biggest things that’s changed is that we’re talking about our mental health more. Again, this was already becoming a thing before, and the pandemic just provided a necessary boost.
And talking about mental health is important. It’s the first step toward actually treating it, and it lets more people find help. A culture of openness and vulnerability— one in which we’re free to discuss our struggles— lends itself to a culture of acceptance and proper treatment.
And we’re certainly not there yet. There’s still a lot of problems with the way we handle mental health. But talking more about mental health is a crucial step to improving mental health treatment.
Acknowledgment and space
With talking about mental health comes acknowledging struggles and making space for them. And we’ve seen that. With the onset of telework and online schooling, we’ve also noticed more people making space for mental health— and overall health.
Taking time off from classes, extensions on due dates, talking more openly about resources: these are all steps in the right direction. Again, it isn’t perfect, and mental health changes take time. But we’re seeing more people making an effort to support others’ mental health, and we need to keep the momentum going.
Online mental health treatment is a controversial subject: some people love it, and others hate it. But no matter your opinion, you can’t deny that virtual treatment has made mental health treatment a hell of a lot more accessible for folks.
You no longer have to incorporate travel time into therapy appointments. You don’t have to find a location. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home. You can get mental health treatment practically anytime and anywhere.
And while teletherapy might not be the best option, it’s better than nothing. So opening up mental health treatment to even more people means more people get help. Telehealth and online resources have been around for a while, but they’ve really taken off during the pandemic, and that’s great.
This is, sadly, still an area that is quite lacking. Changing mental health ideas on an institutional level is a slow, painstaking process, and many of our policies and cultural norms are still harmful.
But, at least in some areas, there have been changes. Educational institutions— especially higher education— have begun to push for better mental health treatment for students. They provide resources on campus, and help students find others who can help them.
There has also been more awareness around mental health in general. Schools try to be more lenient with due dates and give students space when they need it. Like with everything, it isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly better than it used to be.
Taking care of ourselves
One of the biggest mental health changes from this pandemic has been the increased focus on self-care. We spend so much more time now thinking about ways in which we can make space for ourselves, and take care of our own needs. As this great article puts it:
“The pandemic forced many people to learn how to be still, to be okay with being alone, and to find ways to nurture their minds and bodies.”
We’ve spent more time outside, getting back in touch with nature. We’ve come up with ideas for self-care breaks at home and at work. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of online posts about self-care activities and how best to do it. It’s almost hard not to do self-care right now.
And this comes from a lot— talking about mental health more, searching for more resources, making things more accessible, and taking more time to focus on our health in general. So we should be grateful for this, and keep that momentum going. Don’t stop taking time for self-care: in fact, take even more time for it.
For the first time in a while— perhaps ever— we’re starting to approach mental health not as an individual problem, but a community one. We’re helping each other find mental health treatment, and having conversations together.
And community is incredibly important. Suffering alone is one of the worst things for mental health. But being able to commiserate with others, to lean on them, to get support— that can quite literally be lifesaving.
We’re seeing this come up in many ways. There are more groups and spaces that work with mental health, where people can talk openly. Institutions are holding open conversations about mental health and mental illness. And even on a personal level, many people are opening up more to their friends and peers.
Moving into the future
Mental health treatment still isn’t perfect. There’s a lot of work to be done in destigmatizing mental illnesses, making treatment even more accessible, and changing our cultural norms around mental health.
But that doesn’t mean change isn’t happening. A lot of good change has been in the works for years, but it was during the pandemic that it was truly able to start taking effect.
So remember, things are more accessible now, we talk about it more, and we’re building communities of care. Hold onto those things, and think about how you can take them into the future, and continue working towards a mentally healthier world.
Do you have other ideas about mental health changes? Want to ask questions? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know by leaving a comment below or tagging us on social media (@llctherapeutic on Twitter and @therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram).