Anxiety and depression spiked in NYC at height of COVID-19 pandemic

A registered nurse walks out of a hospital during the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City
FILE PHOTO: A registered nurse walks out of a hospital during the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., April 1, 2020. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked emotional havoc on New Yorkers, according to the results of a city Health Department survey released Tuesday.

The survey conducted in two separate periods of April and May of this year — after the virus had peaked in New York and began its slow drop — quizzed 1,200 New Yorkers of all walks of life about their knowledge, opinions and experiences of the pandemic. 

Forty-four percent of all respondents said they experienced anxiety symptoms, while another 36% reported suffering from symptoms of depression. That accounts for a combined 80% of all those who answered the survey.

Additionally, 35% of adults in a household with children said the pandemic had also impacted their youngsters’ emotional and behavioral well-being in a negative way.

Along with the survey, the Health Department reported Tuesday that 261 people had committed suicide in New York City during the first six months of 2020 — which is actually a slight decrease of nine from the 270 people who took their own lives during the same timeframe in 2019.

“People in this city have been through so much stress and trauma, and what they’re sharing reflects the difficulty of these recent months,” said Health Commissioner Dr. David A. Chokshi. “For anyone who needs support, we recommend you reach out, talk to someone and connect. We are here for you.”

The Health Department’s survey found that New Yorkers most mentally impacted during the pandemic were health care workers, adults with children in the household, adults afraid of interpersonal violence with a current or former partner, and adults with a family member who has a chronic health condition that makes them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

Beyond the pandemic, other reasons cited for feeling anxious, stressed or depressed during the pandemic included fears about job losses or reduced hours and other financial impacts. These reasons disproportionally impacted more Latino and Asian respondents than white adults.

Under stressful conditions, it’s natural for someone to feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious and/or afraid. The Health Department advises anyone who experiences such stress, anxiety or depression to reach out by calling 888-NYC-WELL, texting WELL to 65173 or visiting nyc.gov/nycwell. Trained counselors are on call 24 hours a day at the NYC Well hotline.

Meanwhile, the Health Department offers this guidance to help cope with stress and manage your situation:

  • Focus on areas over which you have some control.
  • Remind yourself of your strengths.
  • Stay connected with friends and loved ones.
  • Use healthy coping skills.
  • Connect with community, including faith groups and leaders.
  • Consider civic engagement, advocacy and collective healing.

If you are feeling suicidal, or if you fear someone you know is, seek immediate help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.