Managing mental health during COVID-19

Mental Health Awareness Month 

May 13, 2021

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s take some time to acknowledge how the pandemic has affected mental health and develop meaningful solutions, especially for front-line workers and people of color. 

As front-line workers continue to grapple with the realities of the pandemic, supporting their mental health has never been more paramount. More than half of health care workers directly involved with COVID-19 care screened positive for at least one mental health disorder early in the pandemic, with many experiencing an unparalleled level of burnout.

For organizations employing or partnering with health providers, it’s important to be adaptable and hold space for those who are experiencing high levels of stress and fatigue due to the burden of COVID-19 response and vaccination efforts. One way to do this is by sharing free resources from The National Academy of Medicine and National Alliance on Mental Health, which focus on supporting front-line professionals in combating burnout and building resilience. Share these tools with your partners working in health care and remind them to practice self care if you notice signs of burnout.

As Challenge teams engage members of the community in their projects, it is important to remember that there has also been a dramatic spike in mental health conditions within communities of color. One national survey released in February showed 48% of Non-Hispanic Black adults and 46% of Latino adults have reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder during the pandemic, given that people of color are most at risk of contracting the virus.

While most Challenge projects are not directly related to mental health, they do address some of the core issues that underpin these spikes in mental health conditions. For example, the emotional distress of low food availability is a contributing factor to rising mental health needs. In an effort to address food insecurity, many Challenge grantees are leading food delivery efforts in their local communities:

  • In Deerfield Beach, Challenge participants served close to 230 individuals in the first six months of their Challenge project through food distributions at their local middle school.
  • Project team members in Perry County reach out to local residents to help debunk stigmas against free food distribution and change mental models around asking for support during this unprecedented time.

Another way to help alleviate the stress and uncertainty tied to the pandemic is by sharing clear and culturally competent messaging to educate community members about COVID-19 vaccines. In Forsyth and Orange County, vaccine distribution has been at the forefront of their Challenge work, as each team works to share effective messaging about vaccinations and equitably allocate resources to those eligible, creating a light at the end of the tunnel for members of their community who have been living in fear.

Many of us have experienced uncertainty and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 and how it has impacted our day-to-day lives. As you think about ways you can support others in reducing their stressors and improving their mental health, make sure to check out additional resources on how you can support your own mental health and well-being. If you or someone you know are in crisis, immediate help is available. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish, or 988 for mental health emergencies. 

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