Special to The Dallas Examiner
The 2020 CDC mental health report further claimed an increase in substance use – 13.3% of respondents – related to the pandemic. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, this came alongside reports of increased suicidality for males.
The same report found that men ages 18-24, minorities, unpaid caregivers and essential workers were more likely to have seriously considered suicide in the past month. Both Hispanic and Black respondents experienced increased substance use and suicidal ideation compared to non-Hispanic Whites during quarantine. These findings point to negative mental health outcomes specific to the individual’s sex, race/ethnicity and environment that petition for community-level interventions, according to the report.
Male minorities devastated by COVID-19 anxiety
Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, founder of The National Black Men’s Health Network, believes we are fighting three separate pandemics.
In an expert panel discussion convened by Men’s Health Network and funded in-part by Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, Bonhomme explains that there is the clinical impact of COVID, the economic and interpersonal effects of social distancing, and the secondary impact of increased harmful coping mechanisms. Each of these aspects give rise to unique public health concerns, especially for vulnerable at-risk populations.
Early safety procedures took away the social support networks that many people of color rely on for support. According to the CDC, African Americans are experiencing more than twice the number of COVID infections, higher hospitalization rates and more COVID-related deaths than Whites. The resulting financial and emotional stress to men and their families exacerbates the challenging circumstances already taking place. Long-term disruption of these services could spell continued mental health deterioration for male minorities.
Sobering reasons for the striking pandemic health disparity
Experts believe that some individuals may experience COVID-related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that could significantly hinder their return to pre-pandemic life. CRPTSD can include fear-induced aversion to workplaces and other public areas as a consequence of prolonged social isolation. While the country anxiously awaits a return to normality, communities need to prioritize access to emotional first aid and access to mental health services.
Mental health challenges during the pandemic present a challenge for improving access and use of mental health services. Importantly, research also suggests that men are less likely to utilize these services and receive appropriate treatment.
This speaks to the larger issue of inadequate communication between men and the health care system. An issue for mental well-being certainly, but also a serious concern for physical health during the coronavirus pandemic.
COVID related deaths occur more often among men than women, despite a similar number of COVID-19 cases. One study revealed that morality rates for men age 65 and older are almost two times higher than for women. Even investigation of COVID-19 admissions saw a three-fold increase in ICU admissions for males and a higher likelihood of death.
The inequity in COVID-19 patient outcomes highlights a crucial fact – men live sicker. Hypertension, respiratory diseases, diabetes, heart disease and substance use, among others, are more prevalent among men. All of these conditions arguably contribute to the physical and mental vulnerability of men to COVID-19.
The underlying health disparity widens further with the inclusion of ethnicity. African American men are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and lung cancer than their white counterparts.
Men of color are facing unprecedented challenges to their emotional and physical health. They will undoubtedly need culturally competent support strategies from both their community and physicians to aid in pandemic recovery.