High River United Church of High River, Alberta

Pandemics are Hard on Mental Health

It is hard on our mental health to live through a pandemic. We are bombarded with alarming information, isolated in our homes, kept away from family and friends and unable to take part in many activities that bring joy to our lives. Many of the things that normally help us feel less stressed and anxious are not possible.


We live with the fear of catching COVID-19 and of loved ones and friends getting this disease. We live with the unknowns of how soon this will end, and of how sick we (or our loved ones) might become if we get the disease. We have had to adjust how we do most everything in our lives, especially those activities outside of the home. We are learning to live with wearing a mask, but still face the challenge of carefully removing the mask without picking up the virus. We live with the frustrations of other people as well as our own frustrations, all heightened as the months go by. Parents working from home and schooling their kids from home are under enormous pressure. We are adapting to visits by Zoom or Facetime, but these always leave us feeling somewhat unfulfilled.


For those who were living with anxiety, depression, addictions, and other mental health challenges prior to the pandemic, the restrictions and isolating required may have aggravated these challenges. For those whose livelihoods and businesses have been decimated by the restrictions, the stress is enormous.


Some blame the lock-down and restrictions for the mental health challenges. But it isn’t the lock-down/restrictions that are hard on our mental health. It is the pandemic that is hard on our mental health.


Some say that lifting the restrictions on gathering with those outside of our households and the limits on eating in restaurants, gathering for worship, etc. would solve the mental health issues. But let’s think that through…


The more people can gather the easier it is for the virus to be transmitted to others. Then more people get sick and more people die from the virus. Some of those who are sick have long-term, possibly life-long, debilitating symptoms. So while it may seem that being able to gather would help people’s mental health, it would just create other mental health challenges – more grief as there are more deaths, more watching loved ones struggle with lingering symptoms or more depression and fatigue for ourselves if we end up being the ones who struggle with lingering symptoms.


It is not the lock-down and restrictions causing the mental health issues. It is the pandemic causing the mental health challenges. That’s just what pandemics do. The coronavirus isn’t thinking, “Oh, this is hard for people. They feel sad, depressed, anxious and frustrated. I musn’t do that to them.” No, the virus does what viruses do – it spreads the more we give it opportunity to spread. Through the centuries, it has been proven that one of the best ways to slow the spread of a virus is to limit contacts. (Read about the plague villages, such as Eyam, England in 1665, which shut itself off from the rest of England for 14 months to prevent spread.)


Lifting lock-down and restrictions isn’t the answer to mental health issues. The answer is found in what we know how to do as humans – find ways to connect. God has made us creative and adaptable creatures. And we have so many options available to us that were not available to people during the flu epidemic of 1918-19 or the bubonic plague facing Eyam in 1665-1666.  


Yes, this time is stressful. Yes, it is hard on our mental health. But stopping lock-downs and restrictions will only create other mental health challenges.


The answer is to help each other with mental health. Phone, drop a surprise note in the mail, leave flowers on a doorstep, remember birthdays, arrange a Zoom High Tea, share a book you enjoy….. the options are endless. We can order take-out from a local restaurant or curbside pick-up from a store to help people with their livelihoods. If we are in the position to do so, we can offer a larger tip for services. We are each other’s best answers to get through this pandemic with our mental health intact, though frayed at the edges.


“Cast all your anxiety on God, because God cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) We can turn to each other and we can turn to God. We can vent all of our frustration, pour out our anxiety and sadness, name our loneliness and fears into the heart of God. We don’t have to edit our words or limit our thoughts and emotions – we can share it all with God. God is big enough to take it. And when we allow ourselves to sink into God’s compassionate presence, we find rest for our spirits.


Pandemics are hard on our mental health, but we can find the support in each other and in God to make it through, without endangering lives.


Rev. Susan

High River United Church

a community of help, home & hope, serving in Christ's name


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123 MacLeod Trail S.W. High River, Alberta.

(403) 652-3168


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