Mental Health Is a Growing Concern for Many During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) Urges Awareness and Recommends Ways to Help Those Struggling to Cope
AUSTIN, TEXAS — As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact communities across the nation, AANP urges all patients to take steps to help manage the stress, anxiety, depression and related mental health issues that many are feeling. September is National Suicide Prevention Month, so AANP is increasing awareness of the warning signs that a friend or family member may be experiencing a more serious mental health struggle that requires immediate action.
"As the pandemic wears on, there is no question that increased numbers of people are feeling very anxious about their health, economic circumstances, loved ones and a whole host of related issues," said AANP President Sophia L. Thomas, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP. "Nurse practitioners [NPs] spend time talking with their patients about these issues, and there are some steps that everyone can take to help lower their anxiety levels, such as improving your self-care, limiting the time you spend watching or reading negative news, connecting with friends and family to feel less isolated and alone, and speaking with a mental health NP or other mental health professional about your concerns and a potential treatment plan."
In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 53% of adult respondents in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted as a result of worry and stress caused by the pandemic. Public health directives like social distancing, which help to keep people safe and slow the spread of COVID-19, can also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness, increasing stress and anxiety.
"It is important to remember that you are not alone and that we are all experiencing this upheaval together," said Thomas. "It is critical to take care of yourself, and also check in with friends, family members and neighbors to make sure they are coping. For those who are suffering from depression or more serious symptoms of a mental health issue, it's time to get professional help or reach out to a crisis hotline. The pandemic will most likely be with us for the unforeseeable future, so we must all be vigilant about our mental health as well as our physical health."
Signs of anxiety due to the pandemic:
- Fear and worry about your health or economic well-being, or that of your loved ones.
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns.
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol or drugs.
Ways to manage anxiety:
- Take care of your body — eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, exercise regularly.
- Limit negative news or social media feeds that increase feelings of anxiety.
- Connect with friends and family to share feelings and express any concerns you may currently have.
- Speak with a mental health NP or other mental health professional; seek treatment.
Warning signs that someone may be at risk for suicide:
- Excessive sadness and moodiness.
- Withdrawing from contact and activities with friends and family.
- Changes in personality or changes in appearance.
- Dangerous, reckless or self-destructive behavior.
Ways to help someone who may be at risk for suicide:
- Reach out and urge them to talk about their feelings.
- Encourage them to speak to a mental health professional, a crisis center or a suicide hotline.
- Check in with them regularly to ensure they are getting the help they need.
- Note that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English speakers and 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish speakers.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) is the largest professional membership organization for nurse practitioners (NPs) of all specialties. It represents the interests of the more than 290,000 licensed NPs in the U.S. AANP provides legislative leadership at the local, state and national levels, advancing health policy; promoting excellence in practice, education and research; and establishing standards that best serve NPs' patients and other health care consumers. As The Voice of the Nurse Practitioner®, AANP represents the interests of NPs as providers of high-quality, cost-effective, comprehensive, patient-centered health care. To locate an NP in your community, visit to npfinder.com. For more information about NPs, visit aanp.org. For COVID-19 information from AANP, visit aanp.org/COVID19.