The long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will likely take years to unfold, but one effect is already abundantly clear – the effect on our mental health.
Social isolation, job loss, caregiving burdens, and more are presenting many people with serious mental health challenges. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found that during the pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the U.S. have reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from one in 10 adults who reported these symptoms in the first half of 2019.
What do these elevated mental health needs signify, and how will we respond to affected individuals going forward?
Social scientist Bernice Pescosolido will consider these issues in her 2021 Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture, "The Mental Health Moment: Stigma in the Time of COVID-19 – Progress, Problems, and Prospects." The lecture will take place virtually on Thursday, April 29, 2021, from noon to 1:30 p.m
"It’s hard to escape the front-and-center concern about the mental health effects of the current pandemic,” said Pescosolido, who is Distinguished Professor of sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. “I hope this lecture offers a window into the public’s understandings and responses to mental health as well as who and what they care and don’t care about when it comes to mental health and illness."
Pescosolido is also founder and director of the Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research, an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, and chair of the scientific advisory council for Bring Change to Mind, a national mental health organization begun by actress Glenn Close to end stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
A nationally and internationally recognized leader in the study of mental health, Pescosolido’s research focuses on four areas – stigma, health care use, suicide, and social networks. She primarily studies mental illness and substance abuse and the role that social and organizational networks play in people’s responses to problems. During the pandemic, she has pursued a number of studies, along with IU Professor of Sociology Brea Perry, that explore the adverse, and often unequal, impacts of the crisis.
In March 2021, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences announced that a paper co-authored by Pescosolido was a finalist for the prestigious Cozzarelli Prize in the Behavioral and Social Sciences area. The prize recognizes exceptional scientific achievement, originality, and innovation. The paper, "Cross-level sociodemographic homogeneity alters individual risk for completed suicide", was written by Pescosolido; Byungkyu Lee, an assistant professor of sociology at IU Bloomington; and Karen Kafadar, formerly at IU and now a Commonwealth Professor of statistics at the University of Virginia.
“Bernice’s intellectual vision and tireless enthusiasm for her work are truly remarkable, and the insights from her internationally recognized paradigms on stigma could not be more relevant in these times,” said Jeff Zaleski, interim vice provost for research at IU Bloomington. “It is a sincere privilege to honor her. We are extremely fortunate to have her as our colleague.”
The Distinguished Faculty Research Lecture series is co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President at IU Bloomington. Begun in 1980, this annual event recognizes the research achievements of an IU Bloomington faculty member and is accompanied by a $5,000 award to support the distinguished lecturer's continuing research. Past awardees include Elinor Ostrom, Richard DiMarchi, Ellen Ketterson and Jeffrey White.