Behavioral Health: Impact of COVID-19

Six signs of stress you shouldn't ignore
Covid-19 Behavioral Health

Behavioral health involves many aspects of our daily lives. At its core, behavioral health represents our mental health, which includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It also represents our struggles with substance use, ranging from excessive caffeine consumption to problems with drugs and alcohol.

However, it is important to recognize that behavioral health also represents our general emotions, thoughts, and actions. Importantly, our level of behavioral health impacts our ability to respond to life stressors and crises. When our behavioral health suffers, we are less likely to effectively cope with events that are happening in the external world around us. In turn, stressful life experiences impact our behavioral health.

Covid-19 Behavioral Health

Behavioral Health Challenges

The challenges related to COVID-19 are complex and numerous, however the issues most central to our behavioral health during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Stress and its impact on our body
  • Excess worry about ourselves, our family and friends, and our future
  • Grieving and loss, whether that be the death of a loved one or sorrow related to our normal daily activities being taken away from us
  • The challenge of caring for ourselves and our loved ones during unprecedented circumstances
  • Concern for our front line and essential workers
  • Seeing mental health symptoms appear that we have never experienced before, or having past symptoms recur and grow
  • Feeling the urge to use alcohol, drugs, or other substances to distract and numb us from what is going on

These issues emphasize the fact that we cannot ignore our behavioral health during the course of this pandemic. Instead, by focusing on our behavioral health, we can put effort into something that we can control, which feels good compared to the uncontrollable nature of the rest of the pandemic. By focusing on our behavioral health, we are also helping ourselves become stronger and more resilient to the impact of COVID-19.

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COVID-19 and Behavioral Health

In early 2020, people around the world became acutely aware of the COVID-19 pandemic. The unpredictability, uncontrollability, and uncertain duration of this pandemic has produced an extremely stressful living experience for most of us. This means that not only is our physical health at risk due to the COVID-19 virus, but so is our behavioral health. In fact, experts around the world agree that the complex challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to have a lasting impact on our behavioral health.

COVID-19 Behavioral Health

Major Stressful Environmental and Health Events

While this novel coronavirus has certainly brought on a new set of challenges for our community, it is important to remember that we have experienced, and found ways to overcome, similar stressful environmental and health events in our past. The following natural events (such as tornadoes, hurricanes, floods) and other health pandemics have taken a great toll on people and their communities.

  • 2009 Red River Flood In March of 2009, many North Dakota communities began to prepare for significant statewide flooding. The Red River in Fargo ultimately reached a record level of 40.84 feet. Citywide evacuation orders were recommended.
  • 1997 Red River Flood In the spring of 1997, many North Dakota communities experienced significant flooding requiring mass evacuations. It was the most severe flood of the river since 1826 with thousands of people losing all of their property.
  • Hurricane Katrina Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. This hurricane is estimated to have killed nearly 2,000 people and left millions homeless. And, as an example of the impact on public health, in the year following Hurricane Katrina, the death rate in New Orleans rose 50%. While many areas have since recovered, areas of damage still remain from this 2005 hurricane.
  • 9/11 Terrorist Attacks On September 11, 2001, individuals associated with Al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, the third plane hit the Pentagon outside Washington D.C., and the fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Nearly 3,000 people were killed, and many more were injured.
  • Spanish Flu The Spanish Flu caused a pandemic in 1918. This unusually deadly influenza infected around 500 million people worldwide and is known as one of the deadliest pandemics in human history.
  • SARS Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has been called the first pandemic of the 21st century. Although not the most deadly, SARS quickly spread around the world in 2002, infecting over 8,000 people across 26 countries.

In each of these events, there was trauma, destruction, and loss. However, many people found ways to endure the change and cope. These historic traumatic experiences provide us with a foundation for tackling the unique and challenging circumstances of COVID-19.

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COVID-19: Mental Health Issues and Coping
Covid-19 Behavioral Health

Focus on Coping

This website, including the different modules found along the navigation bar at the top of your screen, is meant to help individuals in our community think about and find ways to cope with the behavioral health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The video to the left and links below provide introductory information on the topic of stress and behavioral health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Below, you will see several links which provide additional introductory information on the topic of stress and behavioral health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Modules describing signs and symptoms of behavioral health conditions are not diagnostic. If you have questions or concerns about your mental well-being, contact My Sanford Nurse at 701.234.5000, 1.800.821.5167, or click here to find a Sanford Health care professional. If you are having thoughts of self-harm, call the suicide prevention LIFELINE anytime at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If this is an emergency, please call 911.