Mental Health

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may be stressful for people. Fear and anxiety about a new disease and what could happen can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. Public health actions, such as social distancing, can make people feel isolated and lonely and can increase stress and anxiety. However, these actions are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger.


Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can sometimes cause the following:

• Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
• Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
• Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
• Worsening of chronic health problems.
• Worsening of mental health conditions.
• Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.


Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations

People who may respond more strongly to the stress of a crisis include:

• People who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (for example, older people, and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions).
• Children and teens.
• People caring for family members or loved ones.
• Frontline workers such as health care providers and first responders,
• Essential workers who work in the food industry.
• People who have existing mental health conditions.
• People who use substances or have a substance use disorder.
• People who have lost their jobs, had their work hours reduced, or had other major changes to their employment.
• People who have disabilities or developmental delay.
• People who are socially isolated from others, including people who live alone, and people in rural or frontier areas.
• People in some racial and ethnic minority groups.
• People who do not have access to information in their primary language.
• People experiencing homelessness.
• People who live in congregate (group) settings. 


Healthy ways to cope with stress

Here are a few ways to cope with stress:

Know where and how to get treatment and other support services and resources, including counseling or therapy (in person or through telephone services).

Take care of your emotional health. Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

Take care of your body.  Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Get plenty of sleep.
Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.

Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.

Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail. 

Remember, you do not have to go through stressful situations alone. There is help!



Different life experiences affect a person’s risk for suicide. For example, suicide risk is higher among people who have experienced violence, including child abuse, bullying, or sexual violence. Feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and other emotional or financial stresses are known to raise the risk for suicide. People may be more likely to experience these feelings during a crisis like a pandemic.

However, there are ways to protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors. For example, support from family and community, or feeling connected, and having access to in-person or virtual counseling or therapy can help with suicidal thoughts and behavior, particularly during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.


Recovering from COVID-19 or ending home isolation

It can be stressful to be separated from others if you have or were exposed to COVID-19. Each person ending a period of home isolation may feel differently about it.

Emotional reactions may include:
• Mixed emotions, including relief.
• Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
• Stress from the experience of having COVID-19 and monitoring yourself, or being monitored by others.
• Sadness, anger, or frustration because friends or loved ones have fears of getting the disease from you, even though you are cleared to be around others.
• Guilt about not being able to perform normal work or parenting duties while you had COVID-19.
• Worry about getting re-infected or sick again even though you’ve already had COVID-19.
• Other emotional or mental health changes.

Children may also feel upset or have other strong emotions if they, or someone they know, has COVID-19, even if they are now better and able to be around others again.

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