STUDY: COVID’s toll on mental health may have been less severe, Central Texans disagree

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 6:33 PM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A new study found that the COVID-19 pandemic had less of a toll on mental health than we thought, but Central Texans and other experts say the research might not give the full picture.

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, looked at 139 mental health studies from across the world with 20% of the studies coming from North America.

Researchers say previous studies on anxiety and depression rising during the pandemic are just a “snapshot” of the whole picture.

All of the studies selected compared the mental health of groups of people from 2018 or 2019 versus their mental health in 2020.

”I do believe that there have been long-term effects of this pandemic,” licensed professional counselor Kristy Donaldson told KWTX.

Donaldson said she saw more anxiety, depression and higher stress levels once stay-at-home orders went in place back in 2020.

“I think everyone was just really uncertain and many people were living out of a fear-base,” she said.

The study did find that the pandemic did have a disproportionate effect on women’s mental health. Donaldson explained that men aren’t always as willing to share their mental health struggles, so that may have been the case with the study.

Central Texans told KWTX that they had their own struggles at that time.

“I was pregnant with a baby and my experience with doctors was a lot more anxiety, because there was not a lot known at that time of the effects on babies,” Belton resident Leslie Hale said.

Allison Pointer, who was visiting Waco from Ft. Worth, said she struggled balancing her mental health with her day-to-day tasks.

”I was really burned out from working and going to school,” she said.

Temple resident Deanna Contreras, who is diagnosed with anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder, remembers spending 2020 staying in her bed and eating all day.

”If I just let myself sit there with just negative thoughts, I would ruminate on those negative thoughts,” she said.

Back then she was a student at Texas A&M University - Central Texas and stopped going to her classes once they went virtual after spring break.

”I would just cry,” Contreras said. “It was just really hard to concentrate on furthering my education when there was just so much bad stuff going on outside my door.”

Experts said the study doesn’t necessarily mean no one struggled mentally, but there are other factors to consider here.

”If you think about life it’s really hard to have an always and a never,” Donaldson said. “A lot of times it falls in between that.”