For Listiner Martinez, the holiday season never brought feelings of merriment. Coming from an abusive home, she said, she never really celebrated the holidays. Martinez said she tried to move past that feeling when she had children, but sadness around the holidays still lingers.
“I typically look forward to when the holidays are over with,” said the West Ridge mom of three who has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder — a mood disorder that occurs at the same time each year. Diet and exercise are tools Martinez uses in her mental health journey, but so is therapy.
Before the pandemic, the mental health advocate said she was seeing her therapist once a month. Then Martinez was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. After surgery, the stay-at-home order meant Martinez wasn’t allowed to bring someone with her during chemotherapy, which started in April.
“I tried to adjust … but it really took a toll on me emotionally,” she said. “I had people who would check in on me. Friends would video chat … but it was just overwhelming.”
Dr. Aderonke Bamgbose Pederson, instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said mental health challenges are more likely to have an impact on people of color, especially in Black communities.
Public stressors created by the pandemic often worsen for people in the communities most impacted, she added. Data has shown that people of color for example are more likely to get the coronavirus.
“When we look at this year, racial trauma is a compound stressor,” she said. “You have multiple different stressors in terms of the pandemic that disproportionately affects these communities already at greater risk.”
Multigenerational family households are also more common in Black and Hispanic communities, she said. The pandemic adds pressure in families with members at high risk, creating different levels of burden.
Adrienne McCue, founder and CEO of Step Up For Mental Health, realizes people are struggling. As the child of a late parent who had schizophrenia, McCue created the nonprofit to help families dealing with mental health issues. Step Up volunteers offer one-on-one peer support to clients by phone or video conference once a week for an hour in four-week or eight-week timeframes. The organization assists different populations with small grants and resources, including the bisexual community.
“Don’t wait till things are extreme or severe. Get support, and get help early,” Bamgbose Pederson said. “Create spaces for yourself and remember that this, too, shall pass.”
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