For many people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 illness, enduring the initial barrage of symptoms is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, between 10 and 30 percent of people with COVID-19 will go on to develop long COVID-19, an affliction that medical researchers are still trying to understand. Of the host of lingering symptoms that have been associated with long COVID-19, mental health issues and cognitive problems pose a unique burden for a country that is already plagued by a mental health crisis.
In honor of May’s status as Mental Health Awareness Month, here’s what you need to know about this important health holiday, long COVID-19, the link between long COVID-19 and mental health conditions, and how the federal government plans to address these significant concerns.
Defining Mental Health Awareness Month and Long COVID-19 Illness
Each May, several different organizations that are dedicated to supporting those with mental illness and improving care for mental health conditions come together to draw attention to the plight of millions of Americans who suffer from a mental health condition. During this month, partners contribute resources, publicize information about support groups, and share personal stories to destigmatize mental health disorders and encourage people to seek effective treatment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected workers who were closely involved with managing its fallout—such as those in nursing care or public health—compared to workers in other unrelated industries. Both nurses and public health workers laid the initial, critical foundation for the nation’s crisis response, bravely rising to the call of duty with imperfect information. However, two years into the pandemic, with numerous challenges persisting, these frontline workers are grappling with burnout and resultant professional shortages. Unfortunately, attrition within the nursing and public health realms can have a severely negative impact on patients and society as a whole.
Here’s what you need to know about the results of a recent national survey of the public health workforce, the state of the current nursing shortage, and how employers can protect against burnout and retain critical frontline workers.
It's not surprising that the people who were the most exposed to the COVID-19 pandemic may be experiencing its repercussions the most acutely. A recent survey of the public health workforce, which assessed almost 45,000 workers in state and local government public health departments between September 2021 and January 2022, has quantified the impact of the pandemic on quality of life and professional outlook.
The key takeaways of the survey are sobering, with more than one-half of survey respondents reporting at least one symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and one-quarter meeting the official criteria for probable PTSD. Mental health has been further strained among public health workers because of negative external forces, with 41 percent of public health executives noting that they have felt bullied, threatened, or harassed because of their line of work, and 59 percent reporting that they have felt undermined by individuals outside their department. Almost one-third of public health workers note that they are contemplating leaving their job within the next year.
Despite these challenges, which largely contribute to burnout in public health, the majority of those working in public health report being satisfied with their job and organization, and the grand majority believe their work is important and motivates them to do their best every day.
Public health's primary concerns are preventing the spread of disease, prolonging lives, and promoting physical and mental well-being. To this end, the American Public Health Association (APHA) sponsors National Public Health Week (NPHW), which occurs during the first full week of April each year. The APHA develops and advances numerous public health programs throughout the year and provides educational resources to practitioners, public health experts, and educators to help communities.
The 2022 theme is Public Health is Where You Are, focusing on the impact of community or location on health. This year’s theme also sheds light on the cultural, linguistic, and other barriers people face when accessing healthcare, resources, and information. NPHW is an excellent opportunity to remind providers and experts to listen more to the needs of LGBTQ+, Black, and other communities of color, for whom access to public health has not always been adequate or fair.
Public Health Before and Since the Pandemic
NPHW highlights critical health issues and addresses underlying causes of poor health outcomes. The first NPHW took place in 1955 and has since recognized public health achievements over the decades, including centralized authorities learning to take preventive actions to reduce a population’s exposure to transmissible diseases.
The National Drug and Alcohol Facts Awareness Week starts on March 22, providing an opportune moment to take a pulse of the drinking culture among Millennials (born between 1977 and 1996) and Generation Z (born between 1996 and 2009).
Both generations have embraced sobriety over alcohol consumption. They have forced the alcohol industry to revamp how and what they market and sell. There’s been a significant shift in what bars serve, even establishing all dry venues.
The Sobriety Mindsets for Millennials and Gen Zers
Studies have found that these generations drink less than their older counterparts. They fear what will happen when they lose control and how their actions may appear on social media. As a result, they consume less than their parent’s generation did as teenagers. They are also drinking less than their parents are drinking today. According to data from the United Kingdom, a forty-year-old is more likely to commit a drunk driving violation than an 18-year-old.
In the wake of the Omicron COVID-19 surge, politicians and health care leaders have been scrambling to get rapid at-home COVID-19 tests out to everyone. You may have heard that COVID-19 tests now can be accessed for free—but this evolving policy does come with some caveats. If you have private health insurance, you now can be reimbursed for a certain number of COVID-19 tests each month, but you may have to go through a reimbursement process, and this development does not apply to those with Medicare who purchase an over-the-counter test.
It can be confusing to sort through the news stories about reimbursement and COVID-19 testing. Here is a simple breakdown of everything you need to know about insurance coverage of home COVID-19 tests, testing types, and what to do if you test positive or negative for COVID-19.
Why Are Some COVID-19 Tests Free Now?
On January 10, the Biden administration announced that it would begin requiring private insurance carriers to cover at-home tests to screen for the presence of the SARS-CoV-2virus that causes COVID-19 disease. This initiative is part of a wider effort to expand testing, especially as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recommendations to include COVID-19 testing at five days after a known exposure, if possible.