The long term impact of COVID-19

Health has never felt more urgent and valued than it is now, including mental health. With a nationwide quarantine, there are masses of people left alone with their thoughts. 

Our mental health is crucial, but it is also important for us to check on others during the extended time of isolation. The clinical and daily student-based sides of mental health have been forced to shift with the rest of the world, as we are unable to anticipate the future of mental health problems. 

Chelsea Pires, clinical supervisor of Crisis Services in Nevada County, has been on the front lines of the Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) in Nevada County for more than two years. The clinical aspect of mental health is indispensable during the pandemic as a main resource for people to reach out. The CSU also adjusted with the pandemic to follow social distancing protocols. 

The Nevada County CSU saw a significant local impact on mental health in March. CSU statistics show that the average amount of crisis assessments lowered by 1.2 percent in March. Although the average number of cases have decreased, there are still continuing irregularities. The unknown aspect of mental health during a pandemic is daunting from a clinical and educational perspective.

“It’s hard to tell how people are doing out there in the world,” said Pires. “People are sheltering in place and we’re [CSU] based at the hospital.” 

According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), “suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 15-24 years.” This young demographic as a whole has moved from a social life at school, to being confined at home. This is a concerning setback for maintaining a healthy mental state. “A lot of us are transitioning from human contact to computer contact,” Pires said. 

Taking care of ourselves and others is essential in a time of isolation to prepare for the long haul. Pires recommends practicing self care, checking in with people, and staying connected with families and communities. 

“That also can slide either way, it can be so much contact that it’s too much,” Pires said. “Again, coming back to self care and making sure you have a balance.” 

Nathaniel Fernandez, a psychologist and outreach coordinator at the Azusa Pacific University Counseling Center, works with students to spread awareness for mental health with workshops and training on campus. Despite the challenges of distance learning, his efforts have continued with the counseling center in order to reach students during this demanding time.

“In my time at APU though, I have been impressed with the resilience of our students,” Fernandez said. “Our students have already shown the strength to reach out for help in times of need, and that will help them continue to be resilient going forward.” 

Fernandez said there are many free resources available through the Counseling Center, including Zoom and phone call sessions. There are other supportive articles and apps listed on their website to help deal with stress. Additionally, 24/7 urgent care services are accessible over the phone at (626) 815-2109.

There are small ways to maintain mental health in isolation for an extended period of time while focusing on self care. But, sometimes avoiding habits while in isolation are effective for positive self care. Fernandez believes that consuming the news can be a stressor.

“Sometimes, when we are so flooded with information, it makes it hard for us to estimate the real threat from the perceived threat,” said Fernandez. “I would encourage everyone to seek important factual information on the pandemic, but limit that exposure to an hour a day.” 

Social distancing makes it difficult to identify the unhealthy behaviors of friends and family. Fernandez said it is important to be open to talking with other people about their emotional state. 

“Opening the door goes a long way,” he said.