It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone’s mental health to some degree. In March, Americans were told to stay home and not socialize outside of those who lived in their homes. Today we’re being told to stay six feet apart. It’s taking a toll, and some are now feeling what’s being called pandemic fatigue.
IUPUI School of Science psychology professor Kyle Minor, and his team of researchers, are working hard to find out just how much this pandemic is not only impacting the mental health of healthy adults, but also those who struggle with a serious mental illness. What they will learn could eventually help government leaders and the general public in dealing with a health crisis that touches everyone.
The ability to connect in-person with loved ones, friends, classmates, professors and even coworkers has drastically changed, and most are relying on technology to make a connection. For those with a serious mental illness, the effects can be amplified.
“These issues are exacerbated in people with Serious Mental Illness (SMI), who are most affected by COVID-19 because they often live in neighborhoods with higher COVID-19 rates, are more reliant on public transportation to go to medical appointments, and are less likely to be able to take time off from work,” said Minor. “People with SMI also have lower rates of internet access and smartphone ownership; these are really the tools many of us are using right now to connect to others.”
Minor and his team are working with those who have participated in their past studies; this includes both healthy adults and those with SMI. They will quantify social function before the pandemic and after it ends. This will allow the researchers to compare the social functioning before the pandemic started and how they’ve changed once it ends.
“That is our primary goal. Additionally, we have also developed several interviews to identify factors that contribute to potential declines in social functioning (e.g., adherence to social distancing, COVID-19 infection, physical health conditions),” said Minor.
With the pandemic still ongoing and expected to last well into the winter, Minor expects it to take a toll on the participants.
“We expect to see declines in both groups, with steeper declines in people with SMI,” said Minor. He went on to say, “Importantly, we will also determine how other factors (e.g., adherence to social distancing, COVID-19 infection, physical health conditions) contribute to observed changes.”
The observations will ultimately lead to a model showing the factors that contributed to the steepest declines in social functioning. Minor says being able to compare pre-and-post pandemic is a unique opportunity and something all can learn from.
“Further, it also demonstrates the university’s ability to respond quickly to a public health crisis. This set of projects funded by OVCR will make important contributions to the field and increase understanding of the pandemic at a time where we really need to know as much as possible,” said Minor.
This project, “Targeting our most vulnerable? Measuring COVID-19’s impact on healthy adults and serious mental illness populations,” is one of 17 projects to receive funding as part of the OVCR COVID-19 Rapid Response Grant Program.