The Mental Health Pandemic Is Already Here

One of the many trends observed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a boom in the consumption of entertainment. Shows that people have wanted to check out have been successfully binged and lists of must-see movies continue to dwindle by the day. One particular show that struck a chord with many is Ted Lasso, the story of an American College Football coach turned Premier League Manager. 

The show is originally based on a Jason Sudeikis character from NBC Sports commercials that aired around the time NBC acquired rights to air Premier League games. What these commercials did not convey, however, are the complex emotions Ted Lasso (played by Sudeikis) is dealing with surrounding an overseas move, a stark career transition, and a painful divorce.

It is perhaps this final note that made the character particularly poignant for Sudeikis, who recently split with actress Olivia Wilde. So, in some ways, it makes sense that on the eve of The Golden Globes, where Sudeikis received the award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy TV Series, he was wearing a tie-dye hoodie as he stumbled through a bleary-eyed acceptance speech. Speculating on the status of someone else’s mental health seems unwise, but seeing Sudeikis on a screen alongside other nominees who wore varying degrees of black tie outfits was a stark reminder that quarantine (and the painful Zoom calls that have become a regular part of our reality) has started to take its toll on many.

As we enter into year two of COVID, the statistics are already eye-opening. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 4 in 10 adults (and 56% of young adults) have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression (up from 1 in 10 Jan. 2019). Also, 13% of adults reported new or increased substance use due to pandemic-related stress, and 11% of adults reported thoughts of suicide in the first month of 2021.

According to the CDC, “the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder was approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%), and prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%).”

Of course, as you may have already guessed, the most vulnerable and disenfranchised members of society are usually the most harshly effected. Young adults are nearly twice as likely to report substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. Women with children who are at home because of school closures are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety than men. And communities of color, who already face challenges with accessing mental health care, are more likely to report symptoms of depressive disorder than white adults. 

Studies go on to warn that as the pandemic remains, public health measures will continue to expose people to situations linked to poor mental health, such as isolation and job loss. This is a reminder that the vaccine simply can’t be distributed quickly enough. Yet, while frontline workers continue to work around the clock to get the right vaccines to the right people, there’s a foreboding sense that something else is waiting on the horizon.

The vaccine may in fact mark the “end” of one pandemic and the “start” of another. Thinking back to Ted Lasso, viewers must now acknowledge that much more was going on behind the scenes than they originally realized. Jason Sudeikis was playing a heartbroken yet joyous character while simultaneously experiencing his own personal challenges in the face of showing up to work every day as a comedic actor.

Much more is happening beneath the surface of COVID-19 than we may fully realize or understand, which is, admittedly, somewhat terrifying. This pandemic has already been bad enough, no need to add another layer. But if the human ingenuity that has made the vaccine already available in such a short period of time is a reminder of anything, it’s that challenges often bring out the best in humanity. 

In that sense, maybe Ted Lasso, and the man who plays him, are a reminder that optimism in the face of challenge is neither foolish nor naïve — it’s actually the only way to live.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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