Mental health professionals sound alarm over the impact of COVID-19

Mental health professionals sound alarm over the impact of COVID-19

— Sarah Blazonis (@SarahBlazonis) May 3, 2021 May is #MentalHealth Awareness Month. #COVID took a toll on so many. I’m working on a story about what we’re seeing in #TampaBay. Last year, I spoke with @USouthFlorida’s Dr. Glenn Currier about the mental health needs of #COVID patients. Here, he gave me an update. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/bHg3P0KSuJ Crisis Center of Tampa Bay Director of Clinical Services Meredith Grau said the center has received 20,000 COVID-specific calls since the pandemic’s onset. 

Currier said USF is a center for complex mood and anxiety disorders. It’s a place patients can turn to when standard treatment doesn’t work. While Currier said increased rates of issues like depression and anxiety were noted at the beginning of the pandemic, it wasn’t clear what role the virus was playing compared to social disruptions, like isolation and job loss. “What we’re seeing is a lot of kind of worrisome trends about people who have been exposed or caught COVID or particularly those who have been hospitalized,” said Dr. Glenn Currier, a physician and chair of the University of South Florida’s psychiatry department. “The rate of severity of COVID infection tends to track with the rate of severity of the mental health problems that follow after.”

“We’ve had some very worrisome things happening in terms of folks who have no mental health history whatsoever until they get this virus, then getting what they call the long haul syndrome where they’re tired, there’s all these medical consequences, but also emotional, psychiatric ones,” said Currier. “We’ve lost some people to suicide this way, so my alarm bells are off that if people are really dragging on and having problems, they have to seek help.” USF psychiatry chair says the more severe the COVID case, the more serious mental health issues can be
Virus itself is believed to be factor, along with social disruptions
Crisis Center of Tampa Bay has taken 20,000 COVID-specific calls since start of pandemic
Previous coverage: Studies offer insight into COVID-19’s impact on the brain

“We think it’s important to recognize and to show ourselves grace,” Grau said. “This has been a really tough year in so many different ways, and so we’ve kind of gotten to a point where we’re used to pushing through, and just this, ‘We can do it,’ kind of mentality.” According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, warning signs of suicide can also include someone talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, looking for a way to kill themselves and talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain.  There are signs Grau said people can look for in themselves and others that may signal it’s time to reach out for support. They include loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed and a feeling of hopelessness.

Grau said while the COVID calls are slowing down, there’s also been a slight increase in callers reaching out for COVID-related issues who say they’ve experienced suicide ideation. “We have many callers that say that their primary stressor that they’re dealing with does relate to COVID, and that can be related to job loss, grief and loss issues, certainly, just needing emotional support,” said Grau. 

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