When the COVID pandemic hit, doctors and mental health experts foresaw the cataclysmic problems the disease would cause — not just the deaths, but the rippling outward effects of so much economic pain and social isolation on Americans’ mental health and well-being.
As we sought to contain the virus, shutdowns were necessary to prevent more widespread death. But we must simultaneously admit that the costs to millions who managed to survive have been severe.
Recent numbers show how severe. The CDC reports that drug overdose deaths surged during the pandemic, topping 87,000 in the 12-month period that ended in September. Meanwhile, 47% of all adults in the country say COVID has harmed their mental health. That includes 61% of young adults and 55% of women, who’ve borne the brunt of taking on child care and remote learning responsibilities, in addition to working at their own jobs.
A September 2020 city Health Department survey found that 44% of adult New Yorkers had recent anxiety related to COVID, 36% had experienced depression and 35% reported the virus negatively impacted their childrens’ emotional and behavioral health.
Federal aid, now flowing from the two massive stimulus packages, should help ease New Yorkers’ economic anxieties. But it won’t magically fix other problems that remain.
For one, we’re likely nearing or may have passed the threshold beyond which the long-term psychic harm caused to students of keeping schools closed significantly outweighs the benefits. Joe Biden’s right, and so was Donald Trump: reopening schools will pay huge dividends for kids and their parents, especially mothers.
New York cannot magically cure people’s pain, but it can connect people in desperate need to psychological assistance. To that end, the city’s much-maligned ThriveNYC program is actually, finally, demonstrably helping, ramping up telehealth services and counseling in outer boroughs.
More than 40,000 New York residents have died of COVID, and researchers estimate each death equates to nine people who have lost either a father, mother, sibling, spouse, grandparent or child. Help them.
— New York Daily News/TNS