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COVID-19 and the Rise of Depression: The Causes, Long-Term Impacts, and Solutions for Coping

For more than a year now, COVID-19 has impacted our communities and changed the way we live in profound ways. And for many years to come, the implications of the pandemic will persist, significantly—and in some cases, permanently—altering how we work, go to school, travel, shop, and socialize. 

COVID-19 has affected all of us to some degree. Many have lost their jobs, homes, and worst of all, friends and loved ones to this unrelenting virus. But perhaps the most concerning, and potentially long-lasting, side effect of the pandemic is the psychological toll it has taken.

With shelter-in-place orders implemented nationwide, depression rates have increased dramatically over the past year as isolation and uncertainly plague the minds of adults and children alike. For those living with a chronic illness, who are already at higher risk for depression and other COVID-19-associated morbidities, the threat is even more real. 

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression since the pandemic began, up from 1 in 10 adults reporting those same symptoms in 2019.1 A KFF tracking poll also found that many adults are reporting specific negative impacts on their mental health and well-being due to worry and stress related to COVID-19, including trouble sleeping (36%) and eating (32%), an increase in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), as well as exacerbated chronic conditions (12%).

While many of those suffering from depression and its side effects will acknowledge their condition, they are reluctant to take action and seek help. Left untreated, the long-term implications of this mental strain can be devastating, leading to severe, ongoing illness—and even death.  

As stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic should increase intervention and prevention efforts to address associated mental health conditions.3 That said, community-level outreach is essential to the success of these prevention and treatment efforts. 

At eQHealth Solutions, the good health and well-being of our member populations is something that we take very seriously. As part of our ongoing, comprehensive population health management strategy, we’re committed to being proactive in reaching out to our members with chronic health conditions to encourage mental health evaluations. 

Central to these efforts is our exceptional Care Coordination Team, who are the “boots on the ground” in both overcoming the stigma surrounding mental health conditions, like depression, and ensuring that every member can access the right care option, when they need it. The first step in this process is identifying those high-risk members and conducting a depression screening that includes an evaluation for substance abuse disorder.  

If a member shows any indication of depressive disorder and/or substance misuse, we’re able to quickly assist them in accessing the proper care, including highly-valuable (and often free) local community resources. 

Whether through telehealth—which has seen a drastic increase in usage since the onset of the pandemic—or an in-person visit with a counselor or other qualified mental health professional, getting those members who are in need of help in the door to get the treatment they need is our highest priority. Once through that door, our team is with them every step of the way. 

As case after case has proven, it’s often only a matter of extending that initial helping hand to get members on the road to recovery and a return to good health. 

Learn more about our Care coordination and member outreach efforts

1https://www.kff.org/other/state-indicator/adults-reporting-symptoms-of-anxiety-or-depressive-disorder-during-covid-19-pandemic/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D 
2https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/report/kff-health-tracking-poll-july-2020/ 
3https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6932a1.htm 

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