Many adults are experiencing high levels of stress during the pandemic, affecting their overall mental health and wellbeing. Inequities in the social determinants of health may further contribute to the effect on racial and ethnic minority groups. Here are a few resources for managing our emotional and mental health during this time.

At Counter Tools, we know that place has a profound impact on the health of individuals. The spaces where we live, work, learn, and play — our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and nearby stores — determine our access to healthful living. We know this is true for many aspects of physical health. For example, we know low-income and minority neighborhoods are disproportionately affected by the negative health outcomes associated with smoking, such as cancer and lung disease. We also know these neighborhoods, many of which lack access to healthy food, also see higher burdens of obesity and diabetes. Unfortunately, this concept also holds true for aspects of mental health and wellbeing. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s now more important than ever that we remain vigilant in recognizing the contribution of systemic health and social inequities and encourage those affected to seek out mental health resources.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily lives, creating stress around job loss, food security, health concerns and the loss of family and friends. There is fear and anxiety about the disease itself, and the recommended social distancing can contribute to feelings of isolation and cause additional stress.

The “Disaster Distress Helpline” at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) made headlines when it saw an 891% increase in call volume in March this year compared with March 2019.

A Kaiser poll conducted in April found that 56 percent of adults say that worry or stress related to the pandemic has affected their mental health, and reported effects such as problems with sleeping or eating, increasing alcohol use, or worsening chronic conditions.

Chart on effect of coronavirus stress on health

The poll also found that Hispanic adults, Black adults, and women had higher reported stress than white males.

Chart on impact of coronavirus by demographic

While it’s clear that many are impacted by the pandemic, evidence continues to grow that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) may be at higher risk. Inequities in the social determinants of health, such as poverty and healthcare access, may further contribute to the effect of the pandemic on these groups. Mounting evidence shows that COVID-19 puts a disproportionate burden on these communities and places them at higher risk of hospitalization and death. Furthermore, people of color are more likely to work in service industries and other jobs that are not amenable to working from home.

Black communities are at a greater disadvantage during this time as they are already at higher risk for depression and other mental health problems. Studies have shown that Blacks are less likely to seek out mental health resources, and the varied reasons include perceptions of social support, stigma associated with mental illness, and previous experiences with mental healthcare services.

To address the current crisis, there are numerous mental health resources that have revamped their content with a focus on COVID-19.

There are also mental health resources specific to racial and ethnic minority groups.

Systemic health and social inequities may worsen the already disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minority communities. We must take care to recognize this crisis and encourage resources for mental health treatment for everyone.