The effects of quarantine show us why we need mental healthcare

The pandemic has made the need for better mental health care more apparent. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

While we #Defundthepolice, let’s fund mental healthcare instead

By Jennifer Fuller, Contributor

The biggest question on everyone’s mind during COVID-19 seems to be: what is life going to be like post-pandemic? Many people are hoping for major changes to the world, namely the influence of Black Lives Matter and calls to defund the police. Defunding the police would mean that, with more money available, we could fund other, non-violent resources to help marginalized people in place of police intervention.

Among these options, one of the most important is allocating more funding to mental health services. It is critical to help marginalized people with mental illness, because many of the root causes of poverty and social marginalization come down to racism and mental health stigma. Our experiences of isolation in quarantine may have left us more open to understanding how crucial these services are.

During quarantine, many people have felt very lonely, isolated, anxious and stressed. For some, these were new feelings to have on a daily basis, or to experience seemingly without reason. To those people: don’t forget how you felt in quarantine, during this time of hopeful change. Especially don’t forget how these feelings have affected your daily life. Experiencing that loneliness, isolation, and anxiety in quarantine is just a taste of an everyday struggle for people who live with mental illness.

 These same feelings that many attribute to quarantine are also some of the symptoms that those with a variety of mental illnesses live with every day. For many people, this is something they deal with as they go about their daily life, whether in quarantine or not. We need to continue to support these people going forward with funding.

Many reported on how much alcohol consumption had increased during quarantine, too, and resources for addiction are a large part of helping people with mental illness. The world always asks, why don’t people who have addictions just stop?” But in quarantine, because of the symptoms of depression and anxiety that people were suddenly experiencing more than usual, many people turned to addictive behaviours as a coping mechanism.

Whether this was alcohol, marijuana, or even non-substance-based addictions like online shopping or pornography consumption, people leaving quarantine are leaving having experienced these addictions firsthand. Hopefully this experience, for those who had it, can help shed some light as to why addiction isn’t as simple as just stopping” the behaviour. Non-violent, non-police-involved addictions services are meant to serve people who struggle with these habits all the time, not just during the pandemic.

For those who do live with mental illness, these painful feelings that were new to many were simply amplified and more difficult during quarantine. So, coming out of quarantine, the symptoms and symptom management of some might have worsened. Depression, loneliness, isolation, constant worry – these can make it hard to get through everyday life, and outside stressors during COVID-19 make it even harder. So when the world goes back to what will hopefully be a new normal,” don’t forget how you felt during quarantine, and reflect on the fact that many people live in those uncomfortable feelings or socially isolating symptoms every day.

Use this experience to resolve to help people living with mental illness. Helping can be done on a large scale – like signing petitions and supporting calls to defund the police, or being active in local or provincial politics – or on a smaller scale, by just making an effort to be someone who checks in on their friends, or talking to your friends and family about mental health. Another small-scale way to help is in the workplace, since living with mental illness can make holding a job difficult. If you are a manager or employer, being understanding of your employees’ mental health can be life-changing. Let’s keep mental health in the conversation and not only end the stigma, but direct funding to services to help people living with mental illness as they move away from police.

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