While some people consider lockdowns and closures necessities to get ahead of the virus, one wonders what’s happening to our mental health during lockdowns. How are adults coping versus kids? What about people who are losing jobs and whole businesses, and how is that financial stress, compounded by shutdowns, impacting mental health?
I’m also curious about kids’ mental health during lockdowns. A lot of schools have gone fully remote, despite a strong scientific base supporting schools ( K-12) remaining opening. In addition to their mental wellbeing, there are a lot of studies showing that kids are not performing well academically in a remote learning environment. In my opinion, schools should be the last places to close. They are vital for a child’s developement and the current evidence base strongly supports them NOT being drivers of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC makes a great case for schools staying open here, and I also did a great podcast on schools and COVID with a top Swedish pediatrician and epidemiologist back in June that you can listen to here. Sweden never closed their K-12 schools. A few teachers wrote me nasty notes after that podcast, but guys, it’s just science! I understand teachers being fearful of returning to schools, but that’s why it’s so important to carefully analyze the available data and make an informed judgement. (Then again, some parents used this podcast episode to help their school remain open.)
In addition to what’s generally happening to mental health during lockdowns, what’s happening with addiction rates? On a previous Causes or Cures podcast episode, I featured Dr. John Kelly, who is an expert on opioid addiction. Don’t forget that before COVID-19 hit us, we were in the trenches fighting the Opioid epidemic. It turns out, that got a lot worse. Like, A LOT.
In this episode of Causes or Cures, I was happy to chat with Dr. Conor Farren about mental health and addiction during the lockdowns. Dr. Farren discusses the trends he’s seeing, differences between adults and kids, alcohol use and the VERY strong link between alcohol and suicides, what people should do if they think they need help and how to find help that actually works.
By the way, some of the mental health trends he is seeing during lockdowns are surprising, or at least ones I did not expect to hear. Also, since there is a massive tele- and digital health movement, I specifically asked Dr. Farren how a person will know if such-and-such a digital tool or website will really help them. How do we know something actually works? The last thing I’d want if I were in distress is being recommended an App that is not shown to work.
Who is Dr. Farren? He is a consulting psychiatrist at St. Patrick’s University Hospital in Dublin, Ireland and a senior lecturer at Trinity Dublin. He is an international expert on addiction and alcohol-use and has written several books on this topic, as well as conducted years of research. He also developed UControl Health, an evidence-based digital intervention for alcohol use and addictions. He’s also a friend and an all-around nice guy! 🙂
After you listen to mental health during the lockdowns, I invite you to check out some of these other blogs and/or podcasts:
Thanks for reading, guys. Keep your spirits up. 😉