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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic, devastating effect on people worldwide.  Because the virus quickly spread overnight without warning, people were ordered into lockdown in their homes, and jurisdictions began implementing social distancing and face masks in public. Restaurants and businesses closed, public services and the global economy were interrupted. By January 1, 2021, the United States surpassed 20 million infections and more than 346,000 deaths. As a consequence, depression was on the rise with suicidal ideation, while many people followed through with it. Depression, anxiety, psychological distress, insomnia, denial, and anger around the world has been experienced by millions of people. In 2019 it was estimated that 280 million people worldwide had depression, but since the pandemic it increased by 25-percent, meaning an additional 70 million people have become depressed. (1)(2)

Job loss and lost wages, disconnection from family, friends and coworkers, loneliness, fear, financial worries, grief after the death of loved ones due to COVID-19, are just some of the stressors linked to depression and anxiety during the pandemic, not to mention the fact that community mental health services closed, and other types of support were not available. All of this led to the negative state of mind that people have been living in since the pandemic and even now after the stay-at-home orders have eased and many people no longer practice social distancing. (2)

We have always known that the mental health system was broken prior to the pandemic, but when stay-at-home orders were issued, community mental health services were not available. Lives were dramatically changed because of the lack of access to care, along with heightened mental stress, we now have an urgent need for these services.

This meant that services had to be delivered very differently from the way they were prior to the pandemic. A new online service delivery approach was created, such as telehealth, virtual meetings for medication management, treatment and even on-line peer support services. Both clients and providers found solace in these home-based services, which may become permanent as the pandemic eases. Peer support online services is a low-cost solution for support for people with substance use issues, people at risk of suicide, and anyone with chronic mental health issues. Like online peer support, telehealth is another affordable and easily accessible service since the pandemic has started. You can read more at https://www.psycom.net/coronavirus-affecting-future-mental-health (3)

BEATING DEPRESSION WITH PEER SUPPORT

Prior to the pandemic, we know that people beat depression. There was a time when people lived with the debilitating effects of depression because there wasn’t any hope of recovery. The outcome of depression has changed since then. People needed more than professional mental health services and medications. They needed peer support from people in recovery who have experienced depression– people who have hope for their recovery too by sharing within a group setting or individually their similar lived experience. (2)

Depression is a mental health issue that affects everyone and everything in their lives and treatment is critical. People dealing with depression need to know that negative feelings will end with effective treatment and peer support provided by others in recovery. This is why everyone should be aware that depression is treatable and recovery is possible.

PEER SUPPORT SERVICES DURING THE PANDEMIC

Peer support became a critical service during the pandemic as reported from findings from a national survey, The Impact of COVID-19 on Peer Support Specialists. There were 1,280 peer support specialists who responded to the survey from May 18, 2020 to June 22, 2020. The survey was conducted by the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University in collaboration with the National Association of Peer Supporters (NAPS). The survey found that individuals served were up against increased material, psychological, and interpersonal challenges due to the pandemic. The findings indicated that peer support specialists filled gaps in mental health services resulting from the pandemic. These included services that clinical staff may not be able or willing to address. Peer support organizations and peer support specialists were flexible using creativity in responding to unplanned needs. There rarely was flexibility in existing job descriptions for other types of mental health workers.

An important point that came out in the findings is that remote and virtual support allowed many individuals to engage in services who were unable to access transportation or who were uneasy with in-person services. Findings also included the need to continue ongoing funding of the peer support workforce, ensuring flexible, creative, and responsive services while retaining the principles and values of peer support. (4) You can access the report at https://www.mhanational.org/sites/default/files/Report%20IMPACT%20OF%20COVID-19%20ON%20PEER%20SUPPORT%20SPECIALISTS.pdf

ONLINE THERAPY

Being depressed can have a profoundly debilitating effect on every aspect of your life, but by taking the first step, which is to get proper treatment, depression can deliberately be healed. There are several medications specifically designed for the treatment of depression. Another way to take away feelings of depression is through psychotherapy. By expressing feelings and sharing them with a therapist, depression can be eased. You can access psychotherapy online and get matched with a therapist. You can talk with your therapist through video and phone appointments, live chat and messaging, or even participate in online group therapy.

DBSA SUPPORT GROUPS

Self-help is another way to deal with depression and work toward recovery and healing.  There are many self-help group meetings that people can attend to get support, share information and find ways to help themselves.  Most important is finding out that no one is alone, and that other people are living with depression too.  The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) has in-person support groups that meet in cities around the country and online support groups too.  If you think you have depression or you have been diagnosed with it, you can go to their website https://www.dbsalliance.org/ to find a support group in your community or online.  They also have stories of recovery that you can read which will give you hope that you can get better too.  You can sign up for their newsletter as well.

WELLNESS RECOVERY ACTION PLAN

Another excellent tool is WRAP—Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  Many people around the world use WRAP as their recovery tool.  It’s your plan on what works for you.  I know that many of you reading this post use WRAP or know someone who uses it.  If you haven’t developed a WRAP, the best time to start is now.  You can contact the Copeland Center to find out about WRAP and where you can attend a WRAP workshop to build your own WRAP, or for training to learn how to facilitate WRAP.  If you have peer support services in your area, talk with someone who can direct you to a WRAP group or an upcoming WRAP facilitator training. WRAP facilitators are peers who are specially trained and certified with fidelity to the evidenced-based practice model. Check out WRAP by clicking here https://www.wellnessrecoveryactionplan.com/

OVERCOMING DEPRESSION

What is really important for you to know is that you can overcome depression.  You can have a life of wellness when you take the steps necessary to help yourself—seek treatment, find a support group, and access peer support services.  You will find that life’s really worth living when you take advantage of the resources available to you in your community and online.

“I had a black dog, his name was depression” is a video by The World Health Organization about depression:

Peer Recovery Specialist : Careers in Mental Health

  1. Suresh, R., Alam, A., and Karkossa, Z. Using Peer Support to Strengthen Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry. (2021) Volume 12 Article 71481.
  2. COVID-19 pademic triggers 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. World Health Organization. (2022) News Release.
  3. Brodey, D. Telehealth & peer support: could these effective, low-cost options become the go-to-treatments of the future? (2021) https://www.psycom.net/coronavirus-affecting-future-mental-health.
  4. Adams, W. E., Rogers, E. S. The Impact of COVID-19 on Peer Support Specialists: Findings from a National Survey. Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation Boston University, Boston, MA.

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