Over the past year and a half, we have seen and experienced the dire effects of isolation and lockdown on mental health through social media, the news, and stories from those closest to us. However, few have talked about what coming out of lockdown would be like, even though most of us have been waiting for it. A lot of us expected to feel joy and excitement at the possibility of returning to our familiar routines and doing the things we loved to do before. The return to “normal” is scary and confusing for those of us who struggled during our time at home, and for those of us who felt a sense of safety and security behind closed doors.
This long period of seclusion has given us a newfound comfort in being alone, not socializing with people, and having a sense of dissociation from our social world. The constant alerts of Covid-19 fatality rates increasing, prolonged mandates on our phones, and the news was exhausting and saddening. So, some of us chose to detox, removing ourselves from the digital social world. But this also contributed to deepened feelings of isolation and increased mental health issues like anxiety and depression. According to the Government of Canada, “Almost 2 out of 5 Canadians reported some level of distress in [September to December 2020]. With social distancing and repeated lockdown measures, feelings of isolation and loneliness can increase levels of anxiety and depression.” We need better mental health awareness and services that are more accessible during and post Covid-19.
After being separated from society, it can be scary to integrate back, especially with bigger events occurring and fewer masks being worn. The worry of catching Covid-19 is still relevant. The CDC reported that the variant “can be passed on even by vaccinated people, and may cause more serious disease than earlier coronavirus strains.” This fact has become a strong base for debate in the anti-vaxx world, especially on Twitter and Facebook. Opposers of the vaccine question the point of the vaccine if people can still get infected. Facebook has been criticised for not regulating the spread of false information regarding Covid-19. Unvaccinated people are allowing Covid-19 to continue to mutate and create dangerous strains that aren’t protected by the vaccines. Although things are opening back up, the spread of misinformation, and the risk of still contracting the virus despite being protected, is cause for anxiety and fear among many. The complex interplay of being exhausted, comforted, energized, and anxious, among other emotions, makes it difficult to gauge how we’re feeling now that we aren’t forced to be inside anymore.
I understand the anticipation of wanting to go see a movie in theatres or eating out at a restaurant. Finally being able to go to campus and meet new people can be thrilling for first-years and upper-years alike. We’ve been yearning to feel a sense of community once again, especially for those who want a more regular school experience or thrive in social settings.
Going into lockdown exposed the difficulties of staying isolated while coming out of lockdown highlighted the challenges of integrating back into ‘normal’ society. Although mental health awareness has been prolific over the last few years, accessibility to mental health resources and education is still unattainable for many. With Covid-19 restrictions, access to in-person mental health resources is limited. This means that people need to have technology like smartphones or computers to reach necessary services. The pandemic has showcased the desperate need for accessible mental health services. Returning to normal can be just as paralyzing and troubling as stepping away from normalcy was.