Mental health crisis spawned by coronavirus fears and lockdown could be next pandemic
It’s poised to be the next pandemic: a mental health crisis, induced not only by the trauma of the novel coronavirus but the ramifications of lengthy lockdowns, lost livelihoods and exacerbated stress, isolation,, and addiction.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered much of the U.S. economy for more than two months, infected 1.6 million Americans and claimed the lives of at least 94,000, is what medical experts have defined as a “perfect storm” for an already in-motion mental health calamity.
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“Since the lockdown, the center has seen a rise in depression cases involving loneliness, hopelessness, and suicidal ideation. Anxiety in cases of agoraphobia appears to be more present as well,” Laura Rhodes-Levin, a licensed professional counselor and founder of The Missing Peace Center for Anxiety, told Fox News. “Those struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder and germaphobia are experiencing heightened senses of fear and discomfort. In this time of isolation, overeating is a severe concern, as well as alcohol consumption and drug use.”
According to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, almost half of the U.S. population claims that the protracted crisis is hindering their mental health. Last month, a federal emergency hotline for those experiencing psychological affliction documented a 1,000 percent increase in calls compared to April 2019, and digital counseling service Talkspace claim their clientele has soared 65 percent since the early days on the public health crisis in February.
And with unemployment rates skyrocketing by the day, such grim statistics are expected only to rise at an alarming rate. Over the past nine weeks, jobless filings have reached 38.6 million, and U.S. Labor Department officials expect the number could hit 20 percent by the month’s end.
Dr. Meghan Marcum, the chief psychologist at A Mission for Michael, a resource for intensive mental health treatment in Southern California, said that “there is a very fine line between taking the necessary measures to mitigate a highly infectious disease while being mindful of the negative effects it will have on mental health.”
With that comes steep concerns of escalating suicide numbers nationwide. Even before the coronavirus crisis, the issue was of growing concern. The National Center for Health Statistics recently reported that the suicide rate nationwide rose 35 percent between 1999 and 2018, but a clearer picture of the pandemic’s suicide ripple effect won’t be fully realized for several months, as medical professionals have to meticulously investigate each death to determine its cause.
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Dr. Roger McIntyre, a professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and the CEO of AltMed, observed that online pharmaceutical service Express Scripts has recently reported a 40 percent increase in a prescription of pills for anxiety, a 20 percent increase in prescriptions for depression pills and a 50 percent increase in sleeping pills.
“We have also seen an increase in the number of people who are reaching out to our depression center seeking care,” he said. “There is no doubt we are going to see an increase in depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety disorders, as well as suicide and, we’re seeing all of that. What’s concerning is that many people, despite the increased need, do not have access to the care.”
The long-term effects of the pandemic, McIntyre surmised, will be influenced by the degree of economic recovery.
“The longer that there is unemployment, the longer there will be mental distress and increased risk of suicide,” he continued. “Suicide is highly linked to unemployment in financial insecurity: for every 1 percent increase in unemployment [there] will be a 1 percent increase in suicide. [According to] our recent publication in the journal World Psychiatry, we are projecting an increase of between 8,000 and 10,000 additional suicides in the United States as a consequence of the pandemic.”
Red flags have also been raised with regard to addiction relapses, compounded by stay-home orders, loss of loved ones, and financial collapse. This past March, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) saw a 338 percent uptick in calls to their hotline compared to February.
“Mental health does not discriminate. With this pandemic happening and all diversities being affected, many people across all social classes will be impacted, the hardest hitting low income who cannot afford or find the proper help,” said Tim Ryan, recovery advocate for Rehab.com. “Many people left untreated—left in their own mental health world of hell, suicides are on the rise, people will be trying to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol, self-harm and loss of housing and total life skills. There will be more dysfunction in family homes.”
Adding to the anxiety this month has been the emanation of severe inflammatory illnesses in several minors. While children were initially thought to be relatively immune to the disease, strange occurrences have prompted doctors to believe otherwise.
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In addition, this takes a severe toll on those forced to care for their young and sustain jobs and livelihoods where possible.
“Anxiety, stress, obsessive thinking, paranoia, depression, and thoughts of suicide have greatly increased among individuals with and without previous mental health issues. People who normally don’t regularly drink alcohol have turned to drink daily in order to numb the stress of multitasking,” said clinical psychologist, Shannon Kroner. “I have personally spoken to many mothers who have turned to day drinking in order to just get through a day of helping their kids with schoolwork, keeping the house clean, making sure everyone is fed, and trying to keep up with their jobs through teleconferences and zoom calls.”
Add in multiple children in different grades, or an infant, or a child with special needs, and the stress can be overwhelming to any parent, Kroner pointed out. Additionally, marriages are being strained due to sharing the same space 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a partner, especially if there are also children involved.
Article Source: Foxnews