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The Mental Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

January 13, 2021

Published in All About Seniors Winter/Spring 2021 Upstate Edition

By:  Lisa Finch, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC

Steve Krozer, CEO, MSN, PMHNP-BC, BSN, RN

iTrust Wellness Group


Throughout this pandemic people have had to adapt to social distancing, separation from loved ones, passing of their friends and family, and a departure from normalcy. The mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is coming into focus even as the outlook for long-term psychological effects remains considerably blurry. This raises the question: are we experiencing a pandemic not only of physical illness, but also of mental illness?

A growing collection of sources points to the truth of this. In a recent population survey of the general population, researchers found an average three-fold increase in depression and anxiety since the pandemic began across all American adults. Though this is a troubling increase in reported mental health stressors, those aged 65 and older reported an even greater, five-fold increase in depression and anxiety (Roy, Jain, Golamari, Vunnam & Sahu, 2020).

In America, there are 50 million people aged 65 and older. The CDC’s preliminary data says COVID-19 affects the older population disproportionately (Roy, Jain, Golamari, Vunnam & Sahu, 2020). Protecting our population aged 65 and older from COVID-19 through encouraging social distancing and wearing protective face coverings has contributed to better health outcomes and has reduced the spread of the illness. Unfortunately, these same protective efforts have led to psychological consequences, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, anger, and cognitive decline in our senior population (Roy, Jain, Golamari, Vunnam & Sahu, 2020). Therefore, it is more important than ever to assess and educate others on how mental health symptoms present in our daily lives. The flags may be obvious or easy to overlook as we all have been having our own struggles adjusting to the pandemic. Mental health symptoms may look different than we expect, some of which include forgetfulness, appetite changes, no patience at all or changes in sleep patterns.

There are several free, convenient, and empirically validated research tools available for assessing depression and anxiety in the older population. One such well- regarded assessment tool is the Geriatric Depression Scale which is available through the American Psychiatric Association. These scales are easy to administer and interpret. Thankfully, there are affordable treatments available in the form of mental health medication management and talk therapy.

Whether you or a loved one knows a senior that has been living in isolation at home or in an assisted living community, consider this: take a moment to ask how this individual is feeling mentally, as our physical ailments tend to overshadow our mental state. If this loved one is reporting some concerns, talk to the elderly care facility director, primary care physician, or other trusted individual about available treatment options. As we focus on a strategy to fight the physical effects of COVID-19, we should all consider a strategy to fight the emotional effects of the pandemic.

“A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

G.K. Chesterton

Lisa Finch, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC & Steve Krozer, CEO, MSN, PMHNP-BC, BSN, RN with iTrust Wellness Group

Roy, J., Jain, R., Golamari, R., Vunnam, R., & Sahu, N. (2020). COVID ‐19 in the geriatric population. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

Steve Krozer is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and is a board certified psychiatric nurse practitioner with prescriptive authority. He founded iTrust Wellness Group in the hopes of creating a practice that helps clients find relief, hope, and knowledge of mental wellness. 864-520-2020 ext 5

Lisa Finch is a Family Nurse Practitioner. As an RN, she was honored with the Daisy Award, and then again in August 2019 as a member of the Wound Care Team. As a parent of six children (two of whom have mental and physical disadvantages) and a medical professional, she is in a unique position that offers sincere empathy for and understanding of those living with physical, mental, and developmental issues.

864-520-2020 ext 5

Steve Krozer
Lisa Finch