By Andy East
Health experts across the country, including in Bartholomew County, are expressing concern that the #coronavirus #pandemic is fueling a #mentalhealthcrisis that could stretch beyond providers’ capacity and leave behind a long-lasting impact on society.
Nearly four times as many #adults in the #UnitedStates are reporting symptoms of #anxiety and #depression compared to the first half of last year, according to a survey conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 12 by the National Center for Health Statistics and #U.S.CensusBureau.
A total of 32.3% of survey respondents reported symptoms of #anxiety as of two weeks ago, compared to 8.2% during the first half of last year, while 25.4% of respondents reported symptoms of #depression, up from 6.6%, according to the survey.
Additionally, 13.3% of #adult respondents in the #UnitedStates reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with #stress or emotional toll of the #pandemic, and 10.7% of respondents said they had seriously considered #suicide in the past month, according to a similar survey published by the #CDC over the summer.
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
However, the #pandemic is taking a much harsher toll on the #mentalhealth of #young #adults, #minorities and individuals without a high school diploma, according to the two surveys.
Nearly 45% of #adults ages 18 to 29 reported symptoms of #anxiety and 39% experiencing symptoms of #depression, and nearly 25% of #adults ages 18 to 24 reported starting or increasing substance use and 25.5% considered #suicide.
Additionally, 13.3% of #adults in the #UnitedStates reported starting or increasing substance use to cope with stress or emotional toll of the #pandemic, including nearly 25% of adults ages 18 to 24. 10.7% said they
Local experts say they are seeing some similar patterns in Bartholomew County.
Family Service Inc., a #mentalhealth agency that offers counseling services located at 1531 13th St., has seen an increase in the number of clients seeking help for #suicidalideation, #anxiety and #depression, said executive director Julie Miller.
“We’ve had a lot more individuals with #suicidalideation, so those who have a plan, have thought about it,” Miller said. “Also, a lot more #youth have reported (#suicidalideation) and #anxiety and #depression, and more #youth have had to be hospitalized for behaviors.”
The end result of the dramatic rise in the number of people struggling with their #mentalhealth, Miller fears, could be an increase in suicides, substance abuse and even cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
“I think it’s going to impact our #suicide rates,” she said. “I think we’ll see a higher #suicide rate. I think we’ll see more individuals using substances just as a coping mechanism. I also think we’ll see a lot more possible unemployment, just because when you’re depressed, it’s sometimes hard to get out of bed to go to work.”
“It’s going to trickle down to almost every facet of your life, and so you’re going to see, I think, a lot more people struggling and needing help,” Miller added.
Challenges for providers
For Dr. Darrin Carr, clinical assistant professor of psychology and director of the master’s program in #mentalhealth counseling at IUPUC, one particularly challenging consequence of the increase in #mentalhealth related issues is that it could add further #stress on #mentalhealthcare providers that were already being stretched thin before the #pandemic.
“It’s important not to forget that the providers of these services, they themselves are under #stress from the #pandemic, and, you know, we are all only human,” Carr said.
On Wednesday, IUPUC held a virtual workshop via Zoom to help local healthcare, first responder and #mentalhealthcare workers cope with their own personal concerns related to COVID while continuing to provide professional services, Carr said. About 25 people attended the event.
During the workshop, participants expressed some of the concerns and struggles they have had during the #pandemic, including workload increases and transitioning from what was previously providing almost exclusively face-to-face services to remote services done virtually, Carr said.
Miller said Family Service has seen an increase in people reaching out for help, but some clients don’t feel comfortable with virtual therapy sessions.
“Our staff have not had a break,” Miller said. “They’re frontline workers as well and they have continued to work through this challenging time since March without a break, and they’re having to deal with a lot of the same things our clients are dealing with.”
Currently, only two of the organization’s 10 therapists are holding in-person sessions, and three are seeing clients in the public school system.
“I’m worried about #stigma and people feeling safe to reach out,” Miller said. “I’m worrying about capacity and our community, whether we have enough therapists. And I’m worried about just people’s health in general because I think there’s no end in sight (to the #pandemic). What people need is hope, right? The light at the end of the tunnel is hope, and so when you don’t see that, you don’t see the end of the tunnel, people lose their hope. That’s when you start to see people really decline in their #mentalhealth.”
The global outbreak of #COVID-19 has sickened millions of people in the #UnitedStates and killed at least 223,600, including at least 58 in Bartholomew County.
The crisis has also thrown millions out of work, crippled the economy and forced shutdowns of bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms and brought new stresses due to #socialisolation and the lack of traditional support systems such as family, friends, schools and other community organizations.
One of the challenges of the #pandemic is that it’s a “hurry-up-and-wait situation” that appears to have no end in sight, Carr said.
“Unlike a natural disaster, for example, which are — don’t get me wrong — impactful and have significant negative impacts on folks, #COVID-19 appears to be an unending situation,” Carr said. “It’s that chronic presence, that chronic #stress that essentially has an erosive effect on folks. That’s why it’s important that we all take extra care of ourselves and extra care of each other.”
Drug overdoses increasing
The #pandemic also has coincided with an alarming increase in many longstanding public-health issues in Bartholomew County, including substance abuse, drug overdoses and food insecurity, local officials said.
Bartholomew County has seen a surge in fatal drug overdoses so far this year, with 27 confirmed overdose deaths as of Thursday, with an additional suspected overdose death still pending toxicology testing, according to the Bartholomew County Coroner’s Office. There were 24 fatal drug overdoses in the county last year.
However, it is difficult to pinpoint the extent to which the increases in drug overdoses can be directly attributed to the impact of the #pandemic. Ten of the 27 fatal overdoses occurred before March, when the #pandemic took root in Indiana, according to county records.
In June, Columbus Regional Health’s Treatment and Support Center reported “an enormous spike” in drug relapses among clients during the #pandemic.
The Columbus Police Department also saw an increase in domestic disturbances, domestic disputes, drug overdoses and alcohol-related calls, particularly during the early phases of the #pandemic.
Additionally, food pantries in Bartholomew County have reported surges in the number of people seeking help with groceries. Last month, 550 families lined up in cars to receive food at Columbus Municipal Airport in the latest in a series of monthly food distributions organized by Indianapolis-based Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana. At one point, the line of cars stretched about a half-mile.
While events like pandemics can have long-lasting negative impacts on people, they also can be an opportunity for personal growth, Carr said.
“(Dramatic events) certainly can have a long-lasting impact,” Carr said. “It’s also important to realize that people can grow from these events. When we’re stressed, it all depends on how we react to the #stress. So while there’s opportunity for negative consequences, there’s also an opportunity for positive growth and change.”
Local experts recommend the following to maintain wellness during the #pandemic:
- Stay active
- Find something of interest or a hobby to keep your mind off the #pandemic
- Get outside and get fresh air
- Communicate with family and friends virtually or over the phone, even if it is not face to face
- Don’t shy away from seeking support if struggling with #anxiety or other issues
- Have patience with others who might be processing the impacts of the #pandemic differently
- Don’t turn to alcohol or other drugs to “numb away the emotional or physical discomfort”