A Mental Health Snapshot Before and After COVID-19’s Emergence
Toronto, August 21, 2020 – In the months following the emergence of COVID-19, some organizations have conducted ‘temperature checks’ on the state of our mental health. Our MindBeacon clinical team – led by Dr. Peter Farvolden, Chief Science Officer – took a deeper dive into the myriad mental health issues affecting Canadians right now.
Their analysis of BEACON guided digital therapy users before and after the emergence of COVID-19 brings together an insightful snapshot. What we found is that, amongst BEACON users, anxiety is on the rise over other mental conditions – overtaking depression as the number one mental health concern people are seeking treatment for. In the five-month period since the COVID-19 crisis began in early March 2020, cases of Canadians struggling with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have ballooned dramatically from 34 to 46 per cent as the leading concern.
Additionally, the analysis also demonstrates a 10-point jump from 32 per cent of BEACON users with GAD experiencing severe symptoms, to 42 per cent in only five months. Of people coming in with anxiety, more of them are coming in with severe symptoms.
From Overwhelming Uncertainty Comes Greater Stress
The marked rise in anxiety, according to Dr. Farvolden, is what should be expected with a population under conditions of massive change and uncertainty. COVID-19 has brought with it trauma and stressors in the form of illness, loss of life, job loss, social disruption, and economic devastation. With all of this change and uncertainty, comes the normal stress response: anxiety.
The BEACON findings are not without precedent – a recent Deloitte report on the human impact of COVID-19 draws a distinct and convincing parallel between the current pandemic crisis and the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires, in which health professional visits for stress- and anxiety-related disorders increased by 92 per cent during the disaster’s acute event period.
Stress-Associated Risks, Such as Depression, Will Follow
One prime concern based on this analysis, suggests Dr. Farvolden, is that with the risk of such a prolonged duration of stress, exhaustion and burnout will set in.
“This type of mental exhaustion will likely lead to the rise of other stress-related disorders beyond anxiety,” says Dr. Farvolden. “These may include depression, PTSD, drug and alcohol abuse, among others.”
“We may be seeing anxiety rearing its head right now, however in the months ahead there will be a real risk of many additional mental health concerns that are directly related to that.”
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