Navigating mental health as a local community during a global pandemic

Our modern society has never experienced a stressor quite like the current pandemic. It is uncertain and unexpected grounds for everyone, and that can have tremendous effects on people’s mental health, including Boise State students, staff and faculty. 

According to Tayler Charlton, a junior psychology major, the new coronavirus outbreak has taken a toll on how our community is connecting. 

“We’ve become very split as a society,” Charlton said. “Some people see mental health as something important, and others don’t.”

Taylor Charlton, junior psychology major | Photo by Mackenzie Hudson

Charlton thinks that the isolation that the COVID-19 virus has forced upon people makes it more likely for an individual’s mental health to decline, especially as the months of the pandemic stretch further into the future. 

“Even for people who don’t see mental health as an issue, the lack of connection to other people could be a downer on them, and they might not even notice it’s an issue with their mental health,” said Charlton. 

According to Dr. Elizabeth Reichert, a clinical assistant professor, of Stanford University in an interview with the university, the ways in which our society has changed with lost jobs, closed schools and financial stress, has caused feelings of uncertainty for people. 

Reichart believes a rise in levels of stress, anxiety and depression in people who have prior mental health conditions can cause symptoms to be exacerbated, even among those with a relatively stable condition. 

It is normal to experience increased feelings of anxiety or stress because that is the mind and body’s natural response to danger and uncertainty, according to Reichert. 

According to Olivia Goodenough, a junior psychology and pre-medical major, an individual’s mental health is indicative of a society’s collective mental health. 

“Generally, everybody’s mental health is worse during this time because of the lack of human connection,” Goodenough said. “I think everyone is feeling down, and needs clarity and guidance right now.” 

Goodenough understands that what people have in common helps gain a comprehension of a group’s mental health. 

People waver every day between feeling hopeful and feeling uncertain, according to Goodenough. What Goodenough has recognized is feelings of isolation and negativity. 

“It’s stressful for everyone,” Goodenough said. “No one is sure when this is going to end, so we just have to take it one day at a time.” 

Sharon Paterson, a sociology professor at Boise State, considers the pandemic in a group sense, rather than an individual sense. Paterson recommends people be more introspective and reflective on what relationships mean to them.

According to Paterson, although technology is replacing our physical connection for now, the pandemic is illuminating the limitations of technology. 

Paterson believes that when discussing mental health, we need to broaden our approach and terminology in order to give people different entry points to discuss their needs, such as encountering increased feelings of anxiety, fear or stress. Another aspect of the mental health discussion should have connection being the main focus. 

“The term mental health sounds clinical and diagnostic,” said Paterson. “We need to name the issue and normalize it.” 

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