Women on the Frontlines

TIME’S UP Survey Shows Outsized Impact of COVID-19 on Women’s Mental Health

Culture, Healthcare, Women on the Front Lines

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis have upended all of our lives. And they have exposed the very real consequences of unfair and unjust systems that have held women, and particularly women of color, back for generations. 

It’s time to break the stigma and start talking about — and addressing — the mental health crisis in this country. As Dr. Kali Cyrus said in an interview with TIME’S UP, “people need to start saying out loud: we are not okay.” 

TIME’S UP Foundation’s national survey — conducted in June 2020 — shows just how ‘not okay’ people are right now. Below, TIME’S UP Healthcare founders and psychiatrists, Dr. Kali Cyrus and Dr. Jessi Gold, offer us their take on these findings, as well as tips and tools for navigating these challenging times.

The pandemic is taking a mental health toll on everyone — especially women.

Women make up the majority of essential workers risking their lives to keep us safe. Many have been saddled with added caregiving and household responsibilities — while working from home. Still others are facing a loss of income, social isolation, or grieving from the loss of loved ones. 

For all these reasons — and more — neither Dr. Kali Cyrus nor Dr. Jessi Gold was surprised to learn that 45 percent of women surveyed said they feel hopeless or depressed at least once a week compared to 33 percent of men. Women are also far more likely to be anxious about family members — by a 10 point margin.

Dr. Gold
Dr. Jessi Gold discusses why women are struggling the most during the pandemic.

Latinx women are facing the biggest mental health challenges. 

While people of color have experienced higher rates of mental health issues since before the pandemic, the stresses associated with the pandemic have made those disparities even worse. 

According to the survey

  • Half of Latinx women do not have enough money right now to pay for their basic needs, such as food and housing;
  • Latinx women are the most likely to say they were caring for a sick or elderly person prior to COVID-19 (29 percent compared to 17 percent of white men); and
  • Latinx mothers are most likely to feel anxiety about their child falling behind in schools multiple times a week (49 percent vs. 32 percent of white mothers).
Dr. Cyrus
Dr. Kali Cyrus talks about her Black and Latinx patients, many of whom are petrified about going back to work.

But men are not immune to the pandemic’s mental health effects. 

While women are bearing the brunt of multiple crises, men are struggling, too. One in four men says he has cried himself to sleep at least once since the pandemic hit, including 41 percent of fathers of young children. And roughly one in three men says they’ve struggled weekly with feelings of hopelessness or depression (33 percent) and panic or severe anxiety (31 percent).

Dr. Gold Interview
Dr. Jessi Gold explains why men are often reluctant to seek mental health support.

And it’s affecting our personal and professional lives. 

The mental health crisis is having a negative impact on our personal relationships: Forty-one percent of women overall reported feeling rage towards their partner compared to 30 percent of men. 

The survey also found that 28 percent of employees — men and women — say their boss or co-worker has lashed out at them, including 39 percent of Latinx women and 31 percent of Black women. And mothers and fathers of young children are equally likely to be worried about their boss thinking they are not working hard enough during the pandemic. 

Dr. Cyrus
Dr. Kali Cyrus says her patients are feeling especially stressed right now.
Dr. Gold
Dr. Jessi Gold says leaders need to start talking about mental health with their employees.

And the election is making our stress and anxiety worse.

An American Psychological Association survey found that nearly 70 percent of respondents said the elections are a significant source of stress.

Dr. Gold
Dr. Jessi Gold fears that the election could exacerbate the mental health crisis in this country.

But there may be a silver lining. 

Because of the collective trauma we are all experiencing, Dr. Cyrus and Dr. Gold are optimistic that this moment will lead to a more open dialogue about mental health and drive home the need for action.

Dr. Cyrus
Dr. Kali Cyrus is optimistic that this moment can lead to a more open dialogue about mental health.