Mental Health during the Coronavirus

May 22, 2020

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area and much of the 12th District, we’ve been sheltering in place for over two months. Although social distancing is necessary to manage the spread of the coronavirus, the sudden shutdown of our economic and social lives increases stress, financial insecurity, and other risks for poor mental health.

Leading public health organizations frame mental health in the positive as a state of well-being, making it a shared goal for all of us. However, economic challenges like sudden income loss, housing instability, and limited employment prospects pose significant risks to good mental health. As we continue to explore the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on low-income communities and communities of color, we want to consider the mental health implications of the pandemic on populations that have faced barriers to economic opportunity. We also recognize that new challenges are heightening existing risk factors.

“The onslaught of financial insecurity, loss of sense of control, and overall negative impacts to population mental health are already manifesting in troubling ways,” writes Laura Choi, research manager for community development at the SF Fed, in her research brief on the topic. “It is vital that we consider mental health promotion as part of a comprehensive approach to equitable economic recovery.”

What does this comprehensive approach look like? In her brief, Choi stresses the opportunity to strengthen prevention through cross-sector partnerships, highlighting ways to build mental health promotion into existing work designed to strengthen communities.

She concludes with a reminder of why our collective response to mental health is a critical piece of the overall COVID-19 recovery: “Good mental health is a necessity for achieving the educational and employment outcomes that drive economic resilience and mobility.”

For more on how COVID-19 exacerbates risk factors for poor mental health and what we can do about it, read The Mental Health Implications of COVID-19 on Low-Income Communities and Communities of Color.

Laurel Gourd is the Community Development communications specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.