Viewpoint: When pandemic ends, get ready for mass depression

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a great deal of anxiety, stress and uncertainty for Americans, which is likely lead to a rise in clinical depression that the nation must prepare for, two clinical psychologists suggest.

Jonathan Kanter, PhD, director of the Center for the Science of Social Connection at Seattle-based University of Washington and Katherine Manbeck, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of Washington, wrote the article for The Conversation, an independent, nonprofit web publisher of commentary and analysis authored by academics.

The scientists wrote that the pandemic has brought about unique environmental stressors that may trigger a depression epidemic in the country. These stressors include personal loss and grief, extended periods of social isolation and financial difficulties.

The resulting increase in cases of depression will also make it harder for the country to recover after the pandemic, they said.

"Given depression's impact on motivation and problem-solving, when our economy recovers, those who are depressed will have a harder time engaging in new goal pursuits and finding work," they said. "When the period of mandated social isolation ends, those who are depressed will have a harder time reengaging in meaningful social activity and exercising."

While self-help resources are available, there need to be bigger shifts in policy to address the potential rise in depression, the authors said. Economic relief measures from the federal government will be key to addressing depression as well, they said.

There will need to be a public health campaign to raises awareness of depression and offer treatment information, as well as better mental health sick-leave policies and insurance coverage, the authors said.

A diverse crop of mental health practitioners should be trained and embedded in communities and treatment centers across the U.S. to help with the response to the potential depression epidemic, the authors said.

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