Mental Health Care in a Pandemic: Dealing with Anxiety and More

Chronic stress increases the risk of developing depression and anxiety in some people. The precise mechanisms of how stress is linked to mental ill-health are being uncovered.
Scientists found that the earliest response to stress happens in the brain within seconds of perceiving a ‘stressor’. Chemicals which signal between nerve cells (neurotransmitters) are released. These include serotonin and adrenaline. Following this, stress hormones are released, which particularly affect areas of the brain key for memory and regulating emotions. Repeated stress changes how well these systems are able to control the stress response.
Researchers are also investigating how these systems are involved in anxiety and depression, suggesting a biochemical link between stress and mental illness. Recent studies have shown that long-term stress can change the structure of the brain, especially in areas supporting learning and memory. It can affect both nerve cells (grey matter) and the connections between them (white matter). It is possible these changes, along with other factors, can increase the likelihood of developing mental illness.
Stress and our mental health – what is the impact & how can we tackle it?