Mental Health and the Pandemic
©Copyright 2021 Silva Carka Student, Ryerson University.
Heading into the second year of living with the coronavirus, we find ourselves in a worse off state than when this all started a year ago. From March 2020 until now, as a society we can collectively agree that the pandemic has mentally taken a toll on everyone. Quarantine, lockdown, stay at home orders, and emergence stops one after the other have left citizens feeling isolated and alone craving socialisation and companionship as this game of lockdown progresses. With all this in mind, to what extent has the toll on mental health been because of the pandemic?
There are a few studies that support my claim about deteriorating mental health during this pandemic that I will mention to provide insight regarding what individuals are experiencing. The first study is by Alison Abbott whose research on the pandemic’s toll on mental health states that “[s]tudies and surveys conducted so far in the pandemic consistently show that young people, rather than older people, are most vulnerable to increased psychological distress, perhaps because their need for social interactions are stronger” (Abbott). In her study Abbott includes a chart showing the spike in cases of depression and anxiety from the previous year providing a visual to the increased mental health tolls of the pandemic in the last year. A year of being stuck indoors has its implications no doubt. Anne Gadermann and her team also offer important information on the impact of mental health in this study. The study mentions some important numbers regarding Kids Help Phone and how in “April 2020, reports showed a dramatic surge in calls documented by Kids Help Phone, a national helpline for young people, with a 48% increase in calls about social isolation, a 42% increase in calls about anxiety and stress and a 28% increase in calls about physical abuse” (Gadermann et al.). Resources that have always been there for our use are now spiking with people looking for help. It is interesting that while Gadermann notices a spike in some of these resources, Chris Richardson finds the opposite in his study. His group observes that in person services which were once offered are not being utilized as much now since they are now online to help comply with physical distancing (Richardson et al.). The Canadian government invested substantially in these asynchronous virtual mental health resources in hopes that the general population and individuals who could use the support of coping with mental health impacts of the pandemic would engage with these resources, but that was not the case (Richardson et al.). It seems that online transitions are not what the general population needed.
I have provided you with some general data to give you an idea of some of the mental health implications that have arised due to the pandemic. With the help of nine participants, I created a photo essay that visually exhibits the mental health implications of the pandemic on a personal level. Looking at other photo essays about the pandemic they all target the same topics, isolation, desolation, and social distancing of the outside world. Take the two photos below for example, they are from Canadian geographic which has a beautiful photo essay depicting these topics but is no different from other photo essays about the pandemic, and I wanted to approach this in a different way. The virtual exhibit I put together is linked at the bottom of this essay and is my take on a photo essay. Since we live during a time where we are advised to stay indoors to flatten the curve and told to restrain from social gatherings outside of our immediate household, the standard of what a photo essay is had to be revised. The participants in this project were asked to create a visual representation of the pandemics impact on their mental health and then submit a photograph of the finished product. This is an abnormal, even an unorthodox approach to a photo essay but fits these abnormal and uncertain times perfectly when in-person gathers are not advised especially for a project like this. While we constantly see and hear about the negative implications of the pandemic this virtual exhibit shines some light to the silver lining of the situation as well.
Doing the research portion of this project I came across several sources that were confirming my claims about the pandemic, but while putting together the exhibit I saw something remarkable happening. Majority of the participants had negative mental health implications because of the pandemic but there were a few who took a different approach to how they let the pandemic impact them. They still felt the loneliness of the situation but also saw the silver lining of everything that was happening. They turned a bad situation into something they could be proud of. The exhibit is set up to take the viewer on a psychological trip from some of the negative impacts the pandemic has had on mental health to some of the more positive outcomes. You can look at the photos and even click them to get a description of what the creator was thinking and representing in their piece. The participants had full creative freedom to do whatever they wanted to showcase how the pandemic had affected them and when I saw the photographs, it was heartening to see that some were doing what they could to make the best of a bad situation. While this essay focuses on the psychological impacts of the pandemic, I found the exhibit to be more encouraging as it shows some of the mental health implications mentioned in the essay but also some uplifting moments these participants had. It shows viewers that yes things are bad now, but better times are waiting for us. The journey may be a little longer for some, but happiness and better times are there waiting at the end.
Link for Virtual Exhibit: https://www.artsteps.com/view/60662825839d1953454c3806
Images in this online exhibit are either in the public domain or being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.
Abbott, Alison. “COVID’s Mental-Health Toll: How Scientists are Tracking a Surge in Depression.” Nature, vol. 590, no. 7845, Feb. 2021, pp. 194-195. doi:10.1038/d41586-021-00175-z. https://www-nature-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/articles/d41586-021-00175-z
Chiasson, Paul. Reimagined Montreal barbershop. June 2020, Canadian Geographic, https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/pause-pandemic-photo-essay.
Gadermann, Anne C., et al. “Examining the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Family Mental Health in Canada: Findings from a National Cross-Sectional Study.” BMJ Open, vol. 11, no. 1, 2021. ProQuest, DOI:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-042871 https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/docview/2477130250?pq-origsite=summon
Richardson, Chris G., et al. “Use of Asynchronous Virtual Mental Health Resources for COVID-19 Pandemic–Related Stress Among the General Population in Canada: Cross-Sectional Survey Study.” Journal of Medical Internet Research, vol. 22, no. 12, Dec. 2020. doi:10.2196/24868. https://doi-org.ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/10.2196/24868
Valberg, Michelle. Ottawa’s World Exchange Plaza completely empty. April 17, 2020, Canadian Geographic, https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/pause-pandemic-photo-essay.