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The mental health benefit of moving forward from the pandemic

A CDC study looked at the mental health of 800,000 Americans, starting in the summer of 2020 through earlier this year. The study found nearly 2 in 5 adults – about 42% -- had symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Posted at 6:07 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 20:07:06-05

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) could soon change its indoor masking guidelines. The expectation is that the focus will shift from transmission levels to the number of people hospitalized and dying of COVID-19.

“The numbers are still showing that we have a very high level of transmission going on in our communities," said Dr. Keri Althoff, an epidemiologist with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "However, it has come down substantially since the omicron peak in the middle of January.”

Dr. Althoff says with close to 65 percent of Americans now fully vaccinated, the threat of COVID-19 is becoming less severe. However, she says it’s important to wear a mask when around people who are still vulnerable.

“Children under five are still not eligible for the vaccine," Dr. Althoff said. "That impacts a lot of families. We also have a number of people in the country who are immune suppressed, and although they may be vaccinated, their immune response isn't robust enough to truly protect them.”

Dr. Althoff says when it comes to changing guidelines, it’s smart to consider mental health in addition to physical health.

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Janelle Peifer is also an assistant professor at University of Richmond. For the past two years of the pandemic, she says there have been heightened rates of anxiety, depression, and strain on relationships.

“What we do know about humans is they're not meant to stay in states of this level of stress for prolonged periods of time,” Dr. Peifer said.

Dr. Peifer says now is a great time to get connected with a therapist. She says there could be long-lasting effects to moving on without any pause for reflection.

“Moving forward, not moving on," Dr. Peifer said. "Like, how do you find a balance point where you can acknowledge the risk and acknowledge the need to attend to your mental health and wellness and go back to some of the experiences and opportunities that are essential for your wellness that may have been out of reach before.”

Dr. Peifer says it’s OK if priorities during the pandemic have changed.

Some people were extremely careful at the beginning, but now feel safe getting together with friends again.

Dr. Althoff says it’s good to take advantage of the times when the virus isn’t causing so much death.

“It looks like we're ready to take another step forward towards resuming a little bit more of a quote normal life or resume more aspects of our lives that we saw pre-2020,” Dr. Althoff said.