Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19

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learning about mental health

Younger and Middle-Aged Adults More Vulnerable to the Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19

The Mental Health Commission of NSW reported that while the elderly population was most vulnerable to the physical effects of Covid-19, it was the 18-39 years old’s who were most vulnerable to the negative impacts of Covid-19 on their lives overall, and on their mental health in particular.

The Covid-19 pandemic had a considerable impact on the mental health and wellbeing of the world population. In addition to the concerns around contracting the virus, many measures implemented to contain its spread and prevent outbreaks have affected people’s mental health in more ways than one.

Social distancing, physical isolation, lockdowns… The associated impacts of these measures, such as loss of employment and social interaction, working from home, home schooling, and not being able to see loved ones have caused stress, confusion, and anger for many people while triggering and contributing to more serious mental illness for others

The mental health impact of Covid-19

To better understand the mental health implications and consequences caused by the pandemic, The Mental Health Commission of NSW decided to conduct the Covid-19 Community Wellbeing Survey from December 2020 to January 2021. The goals of the research were to investigate the impacts of Covid-19 on the health and wellbeing of the NSW residents, evaluate how they responded to the pandemic and identify the lessons and expectations of the future.

Among the key findings reported, a significant demographic association between age and the impacts of Covid-19 on people’s life and wellbeing was observed.

The Mental Health Commission of NSW reported that while the elderly population was most vulnerable to the physical effects of Covid-19, it was the 18-39 years old’s who were most vulnerable to negative impacts on their lives overall, and their mental health in particular.

The figures showed that over half of younger and middle-aged adults experienced a negative impact on their physical health, respectively 59% and 51%. They also demonstrated a notable adverse effect on the mental health of the same age group, with 68% of young adults and 63% of middle-aged adults reporting a negative impact.

During 2020, younger adults (18-29 years old) were more likely than older people to report a negative impact of Covid-19 on a range of measures considered in the study, including:

  • Their mental health and overall health
  • Households with children
  • Specific financial and practical impacts, like losing a job or running out of money
  • Their relationships and feeling connected with others

Even though many NSW residents felt they were less connected with each other, particularly with their friends, family, elderly relatives and local community, those aged 18-49 years old felt the greatest decline in connections, reporting more areas where they felt less connected compared to the other age groups.

Positive outcomes and lessons learned

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about major changes in the way we work, study, and live. However, while we as humans generally don't like to be pushed out of our comfort zone and forced to change our lifestyles and habits, adapting to the challenging situation also presented many positive benefits.

According to the Mental Health Commission of NSW, almost all NSW residents (94%) could identify at least one lesson they had learned or positive outcome from Covid-19 and related events. They also found that those with a mental health issue were slightly more likely than the rest of the NSW population to agree that there are positive behaviours we could adopt for the future.

The positive outcomes and lessons learned reported through the study include:

  • The importance of being more careful with money
  • Less congestion on roads/public transport
  • Learned to take life more slowly
  • The opportunity to have the time to reflect on life
  • Working from home
  • Cooking at home

While there is no doubt that Covid-19 has increased mental health issues for many people in NSW, these lessons have a common benefit around improving mental health by reducing the risks of issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety.

Adopting these lessons for the future could have a significant positive impact on the mental health of the community.

Positive switch

Even though there is still a stigma and lack of information shared around mental health, the Mental Health Commission study highlighted a major positive impact for the mental health sector. Covid-19 has generated a positive change in acceptance and recognition of mental health issues, with an increasing number of NSW residents getting more comfortable using the terms “mental health” and “mental wellbeing” when describing how they feel, mentally and emotionally.

Being an educational institution specialised in mental health care, we see a tremendous opportunity to raise awareness of mental health issues and provide more professionals with strong knowledge and skills related to mental health care.

Learning about mental health

Since 2020, we have been seeing a lift in enquiry levels for our comprehensive range of units of study and courses to assist professionals who need to build their mental health capabilities to match the growing demand for their professional services.

At HETI, we deliver education and training to support more than 110,000 clinical and non-clinical staff achieve excellence in health care within NSW. This is one of our key functions as an Institute of Higher Education.

Our Mental Health courses are designed to draw on a recovery-oriented approach to mental health care. In practice, this means we support genuine collaboration with individuals on their recovery journey by seeking to maximise hope, strength, resilience, and self-determination. The units are oriented to supporting skill development in the workplace for those with clinical and non-clinical backgrounds.

Our Applied Mental Health Studies courses provide unique pathways for students to address a core set of knowledge and capabilities for recovery-oriented mental health practice through a distinctive learning approach.

Delivered through online learning, the program incorporates pedagogical approaches that foster active learning and critical thinking, draw on earlier experience in mental health, and provide students with life-long learning goals.

Core units in recovery-oriented care, professional standards, innovation and improvement, therapeutic perspectives, research, leadership, clinical supervision, and a capstone experience support shared learning for students undertaking the specialisation of their choice, including:

  • perinatal and infant
  • child and youth
  • adult
  • older persons

Learn more about the HETI Higher Education mental health and professional development courses here.

Sources: Mental Health Commission, Impact of Covid-19 NSW Residents, 2021