By Keann Powley
The 2019 Coronavirus pandemic impacted almost every individual’s life in an extraordinary way. Whether the impact was from a resulting job loss, loss of housing, or lack of access to medical and mental health care, the effects were outstanding. The Pew Research Center (2020) estimates that nearly “nine-in-ten U.S. adults say their life has changed at least a little as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including 44% who say their lives have changed in a major way.” The CDC backs this research by assessing that in May of 2020, “emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts began to increase among adolescents ages 12-17” (Yard et al., 2021).
Unfortunately, along with physical sickness, an individual’s mental health did not escape the consequences of the pandemic. The CDC states that “40.9 percent of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition” attributed to the pandemic (Yard et al., 2021). Essential workers comprise a significant subgroup of individuals affected harshly by the pandemic. In an article provided by the American Psychological Association states: “essential workers were more than twice as likely as those who are not to have received treatment from a mental health professional (34% vs. 12%) and to have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder since the coronavirus pandemic started (25% vs. 9%)” (2021).
When asked how his mental health was affected by the pandemic by being an essential worker, Jaz Lorentzen, a 33-year-old retail worker stated that his mental health was affected by the pandemic and working a retail job because he was “afraid of contracting the virus and missing work,” and was worried how he would afford his rent and expenses if he were to get sick, or hospitalized. Once he did contract the virus, he was placed on a two-week suspension, luckily with pay. However, not so lucky was Brennen Powley, a 34-year-old hospitality worker who was furloughed from his hotel job: “I had to go on unemployment, and when there would be a delay in pay I wasn’t sure how I would support my family and pay my mortgage.”
Another unfortunate consequence to the pandemic was the lack of access to the internet fortelehealth services to connect with healthcare professionals. According to an article in Wired, elderly individuals were the biggest to suffer the consequences of the pandemic: “older Americans are among the most likely to need health care—about a quarter of all doctors’ office visits are for people over age 65—and yet they are least likely to be able to access the virtual doctors’ appointments that have skyrocketed in the past six months” (2021). When asked how telehealth visits affected her Chinese immigrant mother, Gloria, a 35-year-old American Chinese individual stated that “it was hard for her to care for herself and remain independent because English is her second language, and she was not born in the modern day smartphone era. These issues combined made it almost impossible for my mother to acquire needed access to her physicians.”
In response to the changing situation in medical and mental health and the need for equal access to telehealth services, Governor Polis signed HB-21-1097 which is a bill that “establishes a new state Behavioral Health Administration” (Colorado Department of Human Services, 2021). This program aims to improve access to telehealth care for people struggling with both health and mental health. It also will focus on bridging the gap between socioeconomic equality and access to appropriate care by enhancing funding for state-based health and behavioral health programs.
The question remains on if these state funded programs will improve access to communities affected by worsening medical and mental health during the pandemic. It is important that healthcare evolves to meet the needs of every individual’s medical and mental health needs. It is also important that individuals hold Governor Polis accountable to aid his constituents in a better quality of life. In a time that turned many medical and mental health conditions worse, we need a quick change in order to create an upswing in America’s healing from the pandemic.
American Psychological Association (APA) (2021). Essential Workers More Likely to beDiagnosed with a Mental Health Disorder During Pandemic. American Psychological Association. March 11, 2021. Web.https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2021/one-year-pandemic-stress-essential
Colorado Department of Human Services. Gov. Polis signs bill to transform behavioral health system.” Colorado General Assembly. April 22, 2021. Web. https://stateofreform.com/featured/2021/04/gov-polis-signs-bill-to-transform-behavioral-health-system/ Bill – https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb21-1097
Lam, Gloria (2021). Interview for The Dark Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Interview Conducted over the Phone on November 3, 2021.
Lorentzen, Jaz (2021). Interview for The Dark Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic. In-person Interview Conducted on November 4, 2021.
Pew Research (2020). Most Americans Say Coronavirus Outbreak Has Impacted Their Lives. Pew Research Center. Web. March 30, 2021. https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/03/30/most-americans-say-coronavirus-outbreak-has-impacted-their-lives/
Powley, Brennen (2021). Interview for The Dark Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic.Interview Conducted over the Phone on November 5, 2021.
Wired (2021). Access to Telemedicine Is Hardest for Those Who Need It Most. Wired. Web.November 2021.
Yard, E. et al. “Emergency Department Visits for Suspected Suicide Attempts AmongPersons Aged 12–25 Years Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States,January 2019–May 2021” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. June 18, 2021.https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7024e1.html