Coping in Times of Uncertainty

COVID-19 is a time of the utmost uncertainty, as we live through the “unknown unknown” according to NAMI (2020). As the conversations continue and media puts forth a lot of information the anxiety and stress related to COVID-19 rises. This impacts not only the 1 in 5 people who have a mental health condition, but also the 1 in 2 who are at risk for developing one (MHA, 2020). Of all those people who are impacted certain populations are most at risk and that includes older adults, children and teens, parents, and healthcare professionals and first responders. So pretty much everyone right? Yes, that is the thing about mental health, it doesn’t discriminate, and it doesn’t skip over generations. Now more than ever we need to be taking care of ourselves and each other.

Social distancing and quarantine are increasing isolation and symptoms of depression across all populations and puts as more at risk for developing poor mental health. Furthermore, the stress as a direct result of COVID-19 has the potential to exacerbate underling risk factors for depression and anxiety (AFSP, 2020). Meaning, if someone wasn’t presenting with symptoms before, this may be the time that they do. According to the CDC (2020), stress during a disease outbreak is different from the typical anxiety experienced in that it is heavily focused on one’s health. An increase in concern relative to personal health can lead to disruptions in one’s life such as changes in sleeping and eating patterns, difficulty concentrating, worsened or increased risk for chronic health problems, and increase in alcohol, tobacco, and other substances. This is important information for everyone to know at an age appropriate level in order to encourage people to get the help that they need.

In researching the impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of people across the world there was a lot of common themes and patterns in the discussions. The first was that the identified high-risk groups were similar and the second was that they approached coping and helping others at risk in very similar ways. For your convenience I have gathered the information and condensed it in a way that is hopefully direct and simple to understand.


Population Coping/How to help
All ·         Communicate frequently via any platform accessible to you

·         Encourage someone to or for personal use take a mental health screening before symptoms worsen

·         Maintain/establish a routine

·         Limit social media and news

·         Maintain an optimistic attitude

·         When talking with others stick to the facts!

·         Encourage self-care and be a role model of it

·         Normalize experience of anxiety and stress

·         Utilize help lines, online support groups, online communities

·         Take appropriate preventative measures

·         Do what makes you feel safe

·         Practice mindfulness

Older adults ·         check in with them more frequently as their routines have changed substantially

·         understand that they may not be capable of caring for themselves in the same way that you can

·         help with meal prep, go shopping, assist with medical and financial needs, billing

·         express gratitude for relationships and demonstrate companionship

·         support in any grieving or loss of relationships or persons affected

·         learn from them

Parents of Children and Teens ·         be a role model

·         look for changes in behaviors

·         stay engaged with them

·         talk about COVID-19 at an age appropriate level

·         stick to routines

·         learn with your child

·         listen to your child rather than try and solve your child’s concerns

First Responders and Health Care Professionals ·         Acknowledge and learn about trauma and secondary traumatic stress

·         Practice self-care mentally and physically

·         Take a break when you can

·         Communicate your stress with loved ones and professionals

·         Recognize that there may be a lack of relation because of perspectives on exposure to trauma


A final bit of information to consider is how we are impacting the mental health of others already. According to the CDC there is an up rise in stigma as it pertains specifically to COVID-19. The groups that have been identified as marginalized are persons of Asian descent, people who have traveled, and healthcare providers and first responders. When we engage in and encourage stigma, we are pushing others to avoid one another, rejection by others, denial of access to resources and needs, and physical violence. Stigma can be side stepped just as easily as it can be engaged in. In an effort to reduce and counter stigma, the CDC has identified the following steps:

  1. Maintain privacy and confidentiality
  2. Quick communication
  3. Raise awareness, not fear
  4. Share accurate information
  5. Speak out against it
  6. Be cautious to not reinforce stigma
  7. Show appreciation for others
  8. Share the needs of those in China


For more information and resources check out the resources below! If you are looking for professional help check out our website for intake information.

Courtney-Graduate Intern



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