- Several diseases are on the rise, which may be taking a toll on the nation’s mental health.
- Experts say anxiety and depression have skyrocketed during the Covid pandemic.
- Taking care of your well-being should be a priority, health experts say.
Monkeypox is now a national health emergency, the United States had its first case of polio in almost a decade, and BA.5 is the most infectious Covid-19 subvariant since the first wave of the pandemic. These stories seem to have a stranglehold on headlines and airwaves, so has the country’s mental state regarding disease been put on high alert?
“I think, in many ways, it’s probably an accurate description,” said Dr. Hal Levine, a psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer for Behavioral Health at the Baycare System in Florida. “I think most people find themselves very concerned the more they read and see discussions on these diseases.”
The Biden Administration’s declaration on monkeypox last week signaled the virus represents a significant risk to Americans, with more than 7,500 documented cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Montana and Wyoming are the only two states left unaffected by the disease so far.
Meanwhile, the BA.5 subvariant of omicron was responsible for over 85% of Covid cases in the U.S. at the end of July, according to Reuters. It has proven to break through immune protection provided by both vaccination and prior infection.
The two diseases combined to capture a news cycle last month when a man in California said he was infected with Covid and monkeypox at the same time in the first known case in America.
Whether the barrage of media coverage is warranted is up for debate, but the fallout is clear.
“I think in a lot of ways, in addition to being somewhat burned out from a longstanding set of issues with Covid, people are likewise not sure what to believe in terms of what’s the next really bad illness that we are facing,” said Levine.
The country has been left uncertain, and the prevailing mood is fatigue. “The average American just wants to get on with life and does not put a priority on accepted public health preventative measures,” said Dr. Terry Holmes, a psychiatrist and former Chief Medical Officer of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
He believes that the virtual learning and working environments instituted during the pandemic led to social isolation and, in many cases, devastated the mental health of children, adolescents and adults.
“Complaints of anxiety and depression are, more often than not, either directly or indirectly, related to the pandemic,” said Holmes.
If discerning what diseases are a real threat to our physical and mental well-being has become more difficult, there are still plenty of ways to protect ourselves, Holmes and Levine said. They both agree that following recommendations from public health officials, like wearing masks when necessary, is a good step.
Self-care, like proper diet and regular exercise, plays a large role in disease prevention. And just as it’s important to see a doctor when physical symptoms arise, Holmes stresses the need to monitor our mental state as well.
“If your mood darkens, if your sleep is disrupted, if your energy level drops, your appetite changes and you are gaining or losing weight, if you are losing interest in your usual activities, and you are just having trouble caring, then reach out for help.”
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