Did COVID show the mental health problems we all knew society has?

Over the last two centuries decades years, society has been challenged by COVID-19 and the coronavirus. As a result of the sudden societal shift to working from home and being isolated, among other reasons, rates of mental health disorders reportedly skyrocketed.

Many working in the psychiatric field have reported significant increases in appointments for mental health treatment, while there have been increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. There were also reports of increased substance abuse and increased domestic violence.

However, my question is somewhat different.

Were these problems always there?

It is my belief that people have hidden their mental health problems away. It has historically been a taboo in most cultures and countries, despite the best efforts of the industry.

While some might say that Kyle Kinane and his approach to mental health is not the most appropriate take, his point that people bury their mental health issues inside is accurate.

Even with the efforts of World Mental Health Day, people still tend to bury it down inside themselves despite the known dangers associated with it. Many fear their impact on their careers, and ultimately people do not want to appear weak and vulnerable. There were reports that people thought it would be easier to come out as gay than admit to a mental illness.

With these reports going back years, I would suggest that reports of mental health are underreported for the above reasons. A report in 2014 suggested that:

During the most recent round of interviews, which took place in 2004 and 2005, participants were asked to provide retrospective evaluations in six categories of mental health disorders and six categories of physical disorders. 

When researchers compared self-reports to the cumulative data from earlier interviews, they found the following discrepancies between the percentage of patients who reported a particular mental health disorder compared to the percentage that had previously received the diagnosis: 

Major depressive disorder: 4.5% vs 13.1%

Obsessive-compulsive disorder: 0.6% vs 7.1%

Panic disorder: 2.5% vs 6.7%

Social phobia: 12.6% vs 25.3%

Alcohol abuse or dependence: 9.1% vs 25.9%

Drug abuse or dependence: 6.7% vs 17.6% 

Takayanagi Y, Spira AP, Roth KB, Gallo JJ, Eaton WW, Mojtabai R. Accuracy of reports of lifetime mental and physical disorders: results from the Baltimore Epidemiological Catchment Area Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014 Jan. 8

With such a significant difference between reported and unreported mental disorders, it suggests that people have hidden their mental state until they have felt comfortable enough to seek help. It certainly helps when people do not have obvious physical symptoms, or those symptoms could be mistaken for any number of other things. They are mostly invisible symptoms. It’s why these mental health issues have remained hidden for so long, and then exploded when people could not avoid them any more.

It’s only while people have been home and could not hide their problems from others that they have sought help. The dramatic increase in requests for help has also seen organizations like Beyond Blue and Lifeline in Australia push their services as far and wide as possible. It is clear that people need help, so there is a legitimate question about whether people have always had these issues, or if these are new issues.

I personally believe that the majority of this increase has been from people that have had underlying mental health issues. I don’t have any evidence for this, and I would be happy for others to prove otherwise. It is also important for governments at all levels to place funds into mental health support and associated issues.

What do you think? How are you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

One thought on “Did COVID show the mental health problems we all knew society has?

  1. Fortunately for me, I’ve been all right, and in fact, I’ve thrived during the pandemic. I think it has to do with a bit of selfishness, that I don’t enjoy going out so I’m glad that the world is on lockdown. Maybe. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Like

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