Maybe just a tropical storm… – 

Nov. 6, 2020 – News outlets and science journals have published many predictions of an approaching mental health pandemic related to the psychological stress of dealing with the COVID-19 infection epidemic. Tsunami has been a favorite word. One headline by a BBC health reporter claimed “Psychiatrists fear ‘tsunami’ of mental illness after lockdown” (Roxby 2020).  Dozens of research studies have already been published on the mental health status of the general population. I read 34 of them.  They just keep repeating the same type of research in different countries.  For anxiety, the average percentage of the general population who scored above validated cutoffs on anxiety measures from 19 studies was 28% (ranging from 8.3% to 70.8%).  Prior to COVID-19, the average in the general population was 18.1% according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA 10/18/2020). For depression, the average percentage who score above validated cutoffs on depression measures for 14 studies was 23% (ranging from 6.2% to 48.3%).  Prior to COVID-19, the average in the general population was 7.1% according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH 10/18/2020a).

For posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the average percentage who score above validated cutoffs on PTSD measures for three studies was 13% (ranging from 7.6% to 15.8%).  The pre-COVID average in the general population was 6.8% (NIMH 10/18/2020b). Overall, if we are to believe these studies, the rate of anxiety disorders has increased by more than 50%, the rate of depression has tripled, and the rate of PTSD has doubled all in the space of less than six months.  Is any of this really true?  I ask this with all sincerity out of concern for those dealing with the psychological stress from COVID-19 but also out of concern about the hype machine revved up about a so-called mental health “tsunami.” We have seen hyped claims turn out to be false in the past.

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