Communities of color face a burgeoning wave of mental health problems as a result of how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people interact and grieve, experts warn. “We’re about to have a mental health epidemic because of COVID,” says Vickie Mays, a professor of health policy and director of the UCLA Center on Research, Education, Training and Strategic Communication on Minority Health Disparities. Mays said mood disorders, substance abuse and suicides are increasing in racial and ethnic communities in the United States, driven in part by the social isolation required to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
Urban communities are particularly susceptible to a resurgence in mood disorders and substance abuse, given that they’ve been subject to some of the worst waves of COVID-19 cases in the nation, said Dr. Allison Navis.
Separation distress, dysfunctional grief and post-traumatic stress are also interfering with the daily lives of many Americans who lost a loved one to COVID, according to a study published recently in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. “Existing research shows that grief from deaths during the pandemic was felt more acutely than that following both deaths before the pandemic and deaths from other natural causes,” says study author Lauren Breen.
Mays expects it will be down to social organizations in various communities to provide the bulk of the help people will need as a result of the pandemic.
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