For more than four months now, the country and the world at large are battling with the ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic in a never before anticipated health concern.
Experts keep themselves busy with finding the vaccine or drawing comparisons between the current climate to that of the health scares that threatened several places around the globe decades or even centuries ago.
On the other hand, lesser mortals have to face the brunt of the COVID-19 consequences and other issues that are on the verge of surfacing to the brim. These, like the pandemic, are what you cannot ignore.
The shutdown impact caused quite a stir in the mindsets of people of all strata alike; with lockdown restrictions being imposed for months on end and forcing people to stay at home. While some companies allow their employees to work remotely, not all sectors can make it possible even if the employers wish it to happen.
Addiction these days is one of those mental health concerns to which professionals and ordinary citizens cannot turn a blind eye.
Emerging Mental Health Concerns
Increasing unemployment percentages, isolation, and widespread psychological trauma have almost failed people from coming to grips with the new normal. Add the daily doses of death due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is a massive wave of historic and new mental-health problems approaching.
Using alcohol during times of stress is a positive coping mechanism or turning to drugs to decompress is nothing new. But now, more than ever, you can see it become more pronounced. Addiction these days is fueled by job losses, isolation, and lack of liberty to move around freely.
Medical experts and federal agencies warm about the increase in cases of depression, PTSD, stress disorder, substance abuse, and even suicide. The traumatic stress people face in the wake of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has them lining up to get admitted to hospitals. The United States’ mental-health system, which was already vastly underfunded before the pandemic, is now even more fragmented and its resources insufficient to treat patients on such a large scale. This situation leaves the majority of hospitals in the country unprepared to handle the incoming surge and the stress research programs difficult to access.
Meaning, there are piling caseloads that go untreated in the system. Meanwhile, data shows that reports of depression and anxiety are surging in the nation. Several online therapy companies have reported around 60% jump in the number of clients since the coronavirus crisis began. Due to this shutdown impact, compared to last April, there is over a 1000% rise in the emotional distress complaints registered the same month this year. In June, around 20,000 people sought help from the text hotline of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
How Unemployment and Depression in the Time of COVID-19 Cause Substance Abuse to Rising
Unemployment depression is one of the most significant impacts of coronavirus lockdown. The economic indicators of COVID-19 prove to be disastrous, with hundreds of thousands of workers facing layoffs and upended retirement plans.
Several sectors like the travel industry have completely been shut down while the stock market tanks every day. There is so little that can be done about hourly workers, contract-to-hire employees, and those without sick leave options. The entire country’s economy is changing, making it a huge concern for emerging trends in mental health and substance abuse issues.
Addiction these days is reported by the media as outcomes of economic distress, often cited as desperate measures of people locked in their homes, isolated, and depressed. In addition to unemployment, the coping mechanisms typically available to help people deal with psychological distress, such as community support groups and rehabs are closed. Healthcare providers and the facilities are diverted to treat the patients of the pandemic.
While at the moment, it may be tough for defining unemployment, the statistics of the COVID-19 effect reflect these numbers:
- By mid-March, it is reported that 70,000 Americans had filed for unemployment benefits.
- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin the U.S. unemployment, which was at a half-century low of 3.5%, can drive up to 20%.
- Particularly in hotels and restaurants, 80% of workers do not get their regular salaries due to coronavirus containment restrictions.
Even after the immediate threat of the coronavirus passes, many of them may not have a job or even a business to return to. The hospitality, food services, and tourism industry already see higher rates of alcohol and drug addiction. And with decreased productivity, the numbers are only to rise in the COVID-19 times. This situation is similar to the past recession and depression times when unemployment was associated with higher drug and alcohol misuse.
These circumstances have a damning impact on healthcare, families, psychologies, and criminal justice systems. What we need are critical systems that help support medical programs to handle immediate distress of unemployment to prevent the surge of drug use and related deaths and the potential long-term consequences as seen in the past addiction trends.
Social Issues Evolving in COVID-19 Containment
Apart from unemployment and layoffs, the society at large is witnessing drastic changes at an unprecedented speed.
The response to the pandemic has resulted in school closures and program cancellations for about 30 million children. In schools that provide free lunches, students mostly rely on food security, this outcome may mean lack of nourishment. Or, worse, they may be cooped up at home with a potential abuser. Others may be looking at perpetual screen use to battle their boredom when they should be attending graduations, proms, and other milestone events.
One reason why police brutality is increasing in the times of COVID-19 can be attributed to drug use. Teenagers that abuse alcohol or drugs may do so for various reasons, but the fact that they seek protection is among them. COVID-19 could potentially tip the scale by decreasing the protective factors and increasing the risk factors, such as lack of parental supervision, poverty, and drug availability. This burden is also more difficult for parents who may not have anticipated the added responsibility of watching their children round the clock. They also do not have the resources to keep them occupied during their free time, adding to the risk of drug use experimentation.
There is no doubt the pandemic is a potentially traumatic childhood experience, but it is more pronounced as the youth may see harassment, disasters, loss, parents going through unemployment depression, and even medical trauma over multiple events.
Not just the present, the impacts of the pandemic will also have a prolonged effect on their future because of the likely increased childhood trauma, adding to their addiction risk. Even if the abuse does not show up now, future substance use disorders are likely to happen.
The Bigger Problem
Essential services are the only sector that goes on as usual with leaving their private sanctuaries. Most are blue-collar employees who are usually met with oppression.
This brings the nauseating issues like racism to the forefront. Going by the news, African Americans are at the receiving end of the fresh hell from the authorities. Even as the police use the “social distancing enforcement” excuse to execute racially biased harassment, people fear that the pandemic will make them more empowered.
Those without the financial means to sit at home and receive the essentials via delivery services or afford the inflated prices for groceries have to contend with oppression. When you ask does coronavirus cause death, it is more likely to happen to colored people than white folks as one side they have the pandemic and on the other, American police, the alpha predator.
Why Is Police Brutality Increasing?
Black Americans are facing the brunt of not one crisis, but three – the deadliest infectious disease threat, crushing unemployment, and police violence.
The community is also facing devastating job losses with the unemployment rate being 16.8% compared to 12.4% for white Americans. The nonpartisan APM Research Lab conducted an analysis that revealed that black Americans are twice or more times as likely to die from the coronavirus as whites, Latinos, or Asian-Americans.
At the time of this writing, the U.S. administration has actively deployed federal agents to control the Black Lives Matter protesters in the last week of July. As the feds rain down on Portland and the rest of the U.S. cities, even mothers come onto the roads, forming human chains, to protect their children from the authorities.
Pandemic within a Pandemic
Whether it is the mass incarceration of the minorities or heavy drug abuse, the coronavirus is creating a state of the pandemic within a pandemic. According to the Sentencing Project, black Americans get imprisoned five times more than the whites, and the cells are breeding grounds for the coronavirus.
Speaking of the death of George Floyd, the South African-born host of “The Daily Show,” Trevor Noah, commented that a harmless activity like birdwatching by unarmed Mr. Floyd led to a white woman falsely accusing him of threatening her. He comments that the shutdown impact has made people feel stuck inside, frustrated, and uncertain.
But the actual incarceration, experts feel, is the unemployment depression anxiety due to being out of work, and when the imprisoned get released, where would they find jobs? Would their housing situation be as it was before the pandemic?
To answer the question does coronavirus cause death, it is apt to break down the society into three categories of citizens: those with heart and respiratory comorbidities, those with substance abuse disorders, and the black community.