The effects of the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated every aspect of life, making it clear that the experiences of people living through the pandemic is not only intersectional. However, the socioeconomic impact of the virus has made life even harder for those who were already struggling.
The virus has not only affected people’s health physically, but mentally as well. As mental health consequences have affected people before COVID-19 and even more now, it is imperative for mental health services to be less expensive and more accessible to all.
Before the pandemic, nearly 47 million American adults reported that they were suffering from mental health issues. As each month passes and the future around the virus continues to be dubious, even more people are reporting that their mental health and well-being have been declining.
Since the early months of the pandemic, Americans have reported a negative impact on mental health. In April, symptoms for anxiety and depressive disorders increased considerably, and by late June, 40% of adults reported a struggle with either substance abuse or mental health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although no one is safe from the anxiety, loneliness, stress and other symptoms caused by the pandemic, studies have shown that women are experiencing worse mental health compared to men.
Women around the world are three times more likely than men to suffer from significant mental health consequences. Women have reportedly been suffering from “anxiety, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, trouble completing everyday tasks” and worries about food, work and health care. They are also about twice as likely to report challenges accessing quality health services, according to a recent study by CARE, a nonprofit health and equity organization.
Compared to men, women have been experiencing more of the emotional impact caused by the pandemic because of stresses inside the home and outside of it. More women have lost their job and with the closure of daycares and schools, have had to care for their children by themselves without the help from family or friends due to social distancing recommendations, resulting in a cycle of endless stress.
For the sake of those silently suffering, mental health services need to be more accessible and affordable, especially in low-income communities, where most essential workers have reported even worse mental health conditions since the pandemic with increased substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.
Essential workers receive hazard pay and carry mountains of burdens on their shoulders because of the pandemic’s risky conditions, however even with a boost in pay, they still earn less than those who filed for unemployment, according to NPR.
Of those who are essential workers, 52% are women and are struggling to access health services.
About one in five women were uninsured in 2016, but even for those with insurance, many women still reported that their plans would not pay for treatments such as Pap tests, mammograms and colonoscopies, according to a 2017 Kaiser Women’s Health survey.
To make matters worse, mental health services are the No.1 cost barrier for individuals. One in four Americans had to choose between paying for daily necessities or receiving mental health treatment, according to a 2018 online survey of 5,000 Americans.
While services are currently expensive and inaccessible, some of the ways that local, state and federal governments can help relieve women and deviate their stress, is by making more of an effort in promoting and protecting mental health.
During a time when mental health services are needed the most, there needs to be an increase in funding to help put together community-based services that can be accessible to anyone without having to pay a lengthy bill out of pocket.
However, it doesn’t stop at more funding.
Mental health needs to be normalized and the mental well-being of individuals needs to be addressed in communities to reduce the stigma around mental health. In turn, it will make individuals more likely to seek help. Even after the pandemic ends its vicious reign, mental health needs to be prioritized among governments. They must commit to permanently funding health services aside from only prioritizing physical health.
No one is exempt from the mental burden that has accompanied the physical aspect of the coronavirus. Women need to be recognized just as significantly as men, especially when equity and gender roles play such a crucial part of accessibility and affordability.
These women are the foundations of our society: the ones who are teaching our future generations of doctors and lawyers their ABCs. They are the ones ensuring that the shelves at our local supermarkets are stocked, the ones who are putting their health on the line to ensure cost-efficiency for their households.
Women are not ones to sell short, especially when their mental health is on the line.
If you or someone you know needs help, all services below run 24/7:
YOU@Fullerton - a virtual wellness platform designed by Counseling and Psychological Services
Counseling and Psychological Services at CSUF: 1 (657) 278-3040
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1 (800) 662-4357