University of Phoenix on Mental Health and Wellness in the Aftermath of COVID-19


COVID-19 risk mitigation and preventative methods may be here to stay for a little longer than any of us would prefer. As a result, concerns over our physical safety may not dominate our train of thought the way they once did. Yet with all of the attention on how to return to our pre-pandemic way of life as safely as possible, we need to make sure that same attention goes to addressing the pandemic’s fallout on mental health and wellness.

Although declining infection and hospitalization rates make it possible for the world to potentially return pre-pandemic routines and activities, the impact of social distancing on mental health lingers. The way in which the world came to a halt negatively impacted fears of the future for many, but those with pre-existing mental illness were all the more vulnerable to feelings of overwhelm, stress, or worse. Before the pandemic, 20-25% of the U.S. population reported having a diagnosable mental health condition. In June 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that closer to 40% of Americans were battling mental illness and substance abuse.

Considering the legacy of COVID-19 poses the question: how will the past 14 months of living in fear shape the conversation around mental health as we know it?

Eliminating the Stigma of Discussing Mental Health and Wellness

Some experts believe that discussing mental health and wellness will have less stigma in the post-pandemic era. Take for example Dr. Randy Phelps, chief executive officer of Give an Hour, an organization that offers free mental healthcare for military and civilian populations. Dr. Phelps suggests that the increased public mindfulness surrounding mental illness draws a parallel to how the world began to discuss post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans. He notices that COVID-19 began “to deepen and widen the public’s understanding of mental health,” making the topic less taboo in conversation.

Dr. Phelps is excited to see more public awareness campaigns with celebrity endorsements in the spirit of eliminating the stigma attached to discussing mental health and wellness. He cites Michael Phelps’s promotion of an online therapy provider and the Indiana Colts’ awareness campaign called Kicking the Stigma. Seeing prominent, successful public figures talk about their experiences with mental health and seeking professional assistance can help break down the barriers at home for individuals struggling with similar issues.

With expanding public awareness comes an increase in demand for services and the opportunity to improve the entire mental health framework in the U.S. In Dr. Phelps’ opinion, designing more accessible mental health services includes expanding telehealth services. Because telehealth services became a part of the therapy norm during the pandemic, he affirms that “folks who would never see a counselor or a therapist have been able to connect with people for services with HIPPA-compliant virtual packages.”

Improving How We Identify the Symptoms of Mental Illness

Dr. Phelps believes that more Americans will be monitoring their “emotional wellness one way or another through use of technology” in the post-pandemic era. Being better able to identify the signs of mental illness can help erode the stigma attached to mental health and wellness for more Americans.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and with the world slowly opening back up, there is no better time than now to reinforce the lessons we learned about mental health during the pandemic. To continue the conversation, Give an Hour hosted a week of webinars throughout the month. The organization also maintains a resource database that includes papers on recognizing emotional suffering and promoting a healthy mind.

About University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix is a leader in post-secondary education committed to the unique needs of adult learners. The University’s objective is to make higher education as accessible as possible to empower students to pursue an education on their terms regardless of their professional commitments or obligations at home. University of Phoenix offers certificate programs as well as associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs. Students can complete their coursework online at any time of the day, week or year.

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