Coronavirus Updates Public Health Spiritual Care Wellness

Is the mental health taboo finally breaking?

ORLANDO, Fla. – More people are taking up activities to improve their mental health such as exercise, meditation and mindfulness compared to before the pandemic, signaling how 2020 and 2021 have begun to overhaul attitudes about mental health, according to a recent AdventHealth survey conducted just ahead of World Mental Health Day on Sunday.

More than half of respondents to the survey across the health care system’s markets in seven states said they are now engaging in those activities or other practices such as seeing a counselor, journaling, or attending church.

“The pandemic has opened up opportunities to discuss mental health for adults as well as parents’ concerns about children,” said Michael Westerveld, neuropsychologist at AdventHealth. “Efforts to deal with increased stress has led to people seeking more and varied ways to cope.”

Even more people – nearly 60% -- report they are comfortable bringing up their mental health with their primary care physician.

At the same time, though, 21% of respondents said they lied about or avoided conversations related to depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts with health care providers, second only to the percent of people (23%) who said they fibbed or ducked questions about drug and alcohol use.

Personal finances and job stress are top drivers of anxiety, though a quarter of respondents say their mental health has improved in recent months.

More people say they have set new health goals and are not letting their health “take a backseat” during the pandemic while fewer people agreed “it feels pointless to work on my health with so much going on in the world,” compared to a similar survey conducted during the summer of 2020.

Westerveld said the responses help show how the pandemic has brought mental health needs, especially among children, into focus and is heartened to see some increases in much-needed resources such as a $6 million grant from Dr. Phillips Charities to AdventHealth for Children to create a first-of-its-kind comprehensive pediatric and young adult mental and behavioral health program in Central Florida.

He said such programs “will be a silver lining in an otherwise very dark cloud the pandemic has created.”