Effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of Michiganders

Cases of reported mental health symptoms have risen significantly in Michigan over the past two years.

Distressed man looking out of window.
Photo: Pixabay.

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic and the U.S. government declared a public health emergency. Residents of Michigan faced many major changes to daily life, such as the suspension of in-person operations and businesses deemed non-essential and the beginning of virtual work and schooling for some. 

Three out of every ten people statewide report experiencing mental health disorder symptoms. Odds are, you or someone you know has been affected by changes during the pandemic and may be living with a mental health condition impacting moods, attitudes and behaviors.  

In 2019, prior to the pandemic, a CDC survey found that 10.8% of adults nationally had symptoms of either anxiety disorder or stress disorder. During the pandemic, the National Census for Health Statistics began a bi-weekly national survey to capture data regarding mental health in the country. Broken down by state, the percentage of those reporting symptoms of anxiety or stress disorder peaked during the period ending on December 21, 2020, at 45.6%. This number has steadily decreased since that peak, with Michigan’s figure settling in at 30.9% in the period ending on August 16, 2021. For comparison, the national average was 26.6%

What does this mean? Simply, Michigan has a higher rate of mental health disorders than the national average, and as a result, now has nearly triple the number of people self-reporting mental health symptoms than the national average before the pandemic.

As Michigan’s mental health estimated figures remain quite high, it is important to remember that anxiety and depression are treatable conditions. For some, these conditions may resolve themselves over time — which can explain why reported numbers have started to descend. For others, professional intervention may be necessary.

Symptoms of anxiety or depression can include, but are not limited to:

  • Avoiding previously enjoyable activities.
  • Shakiness.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Isolation.
  • Recurring feelings of sadness.
  • Frequently thinking negative thoughts.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Significant changes in weight.

Mental Health America's screening test may help you determine if you are struggling with symptoms of depression. If you are looking for support or help in finding treatment, here are several resources that may help you.

Michigan State University Extension offers classes to help with handling stress and anger, which may help in improving your quality of life. Stress Less with Mindfulness and RELAX: Alternatives to Anger are classes taught by educators throughout the State of Michigan. Please contact your local MSU Extension county office for more information.

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