We have reports from two mental health leaders in Indian River County, FL on what they feel are the consequences of COVID-19 on mental health.
Dr. Nicholas Coppola is the CEO of the Mental Health Association of Indian River County, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing immediate access with no barriers to mental health care.
Brett A. Hall LCSW, MBA is the Executive Director of the Mental Health Collaborative of Indian River County, a non-profit organization providing a seamless delivery of mental health services unlike any other in the state of Florida.
Before we share their comments, we are posting excerpts from three articles provided to us by the Mental Health Association.
BY MARKHAM HEID MAY 7, 2020 12:19 PM EDT / Time
“Late last month, as the full weight of the COVID-19 crises was settling on the country’s shoulders, more than one in four American adults met the criteria that psychologists use to diagnose serious mental distress and illness. That represents a roughly 700% increase from pre-pandemic data collected in 2018.”
BY William Wan / May 4, 2020 at 12:57 p.m. EDT Washinton Post
“Federal agencies and experts warn that a historic wave of mental-health problems is approaching: depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.
Nearly half of Americans report the coronavirus crisis is harming their mental health, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered a more than 1,000 percent increase in April compared with the same time last year. Last month, roughly 20,000 people texted that hotline, run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
‘People are really afraid,’ Talkspace co-founder and CEO Oren Frank said. The increasing demand for services, he said, follows almost exactly the geographic march of the virus across the United States. ‘What’s shocking to me is how little leaders are talking about this. There are no White House briefings about it. There is no plan.’
And yet, out of the trillions of dollars Congress passed in emergency coronavirus funding, only a tiny portion is allocated for mental health. At the same time, therapists have struggled to bring their practices online and to reach vulnerable groups because of restrictions on licensing and reimbursement. Community behavioral health centers — which treat populations most at risk — are struggling to stay financially solvent and have begun closing programs.
‘If we don’t do something about it now, people are going to be suffering from these mental-health impacts for years to come,’ said Paul Gionfriddo, president of the advocacy group Mental Health America. That could further harm the economy as stress and anxiety debilitate some workers and further strain the medical system as people go to emergency rooms with panic attacks, overdoses and depression, he said.
Using such estimations, a Texas nonprofit — Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute — created models that suggest if unemployment amid the coronavirus pandemic ends up rising 5 percentage points to a level similar to the Great Recession, an additional 4,000 people could die of suicide and an additional 4,800 from drug overdoses.
But if unemployment rises by 20 percentage points — to levels recorded during the 1930s Great Depression — suicides could increase by 18,000 and overdose deaths by more than 22,000, according to Meadows.
While Congress recently authorized $100 billion in emergency funds for hospitals and medical providers, very little will go to mental health and addiction service providers because they mainly receive funding through Medicaid. And most of the emergency provider money is being distributed through Medicare.”
“Some providers fear overdoses are increasing because people aren’t accessing mental health services, including Dr. Chris Eberlein, emergency medicine physician at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse.
“We have seen a 50 percent increase in overdose deaths since COVID has started in our county,” he said.
Comments from Dr. Coppola
“Initially for the first two weeks during the pandemic we saw a 75% drop as people were afraid to leave their homes starting around mid March. However in the weeks following we have seen a 35% increase Each week thereafter As it stands we are starting to see even more of an increase now that things are opening up. We are seeing people who are coming out of isolation that are feeling more stressors than before.
We are also seeing many healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines who have been overworked and worried for themselves and their families. They are experiencing a lot of post traumatic stress.
We are also seeing many people who have lost their jobs and as they watch other people begin to get back to their normal lives, while they can’t because of financial and other burdens that are feeling very isolated.
This pandemic has caused a great deal of new stressors for people everywhere, and I recently read an article that stated nationwide, in the US we are seeing increasing numbers of people with behavioral and mental health complaints that never experienced problems like these before. Both anxiety and depression are up nationwide…in fact, the article stated that the suicide rate has tripled.
At the Walk-In Center, we are seeing a notable spike in crisis interventions and mental health screenings since the State-wide reopening process has begun and I have no doubt that this trend will continue as the community attempts to return to ‘normal’.
Nicholas Coppola, CEO
Comments from Brett A. Hall LCSW, MBA
“Initially during the COVID-19 quarantine we did see the shift from mental health to more basic needs, food, shelter, utilities, etc. We are now seeing a return to normal volumes for persons seeking mental health treatment. Conversations with mental health providers in town indicate they are getting very busy again.
I am concerned about many things mental health related, specifically:
- Current people in mental health treatment- ensuring they get back on their schedule of medication and/or therapy and other supportive services.
- People that are entering the world of mental health treatment due to the stressors of this pandemic. We will have to educate them on the various types of mental health treatments available, how to enter the system, etc.
- Everyone else- this is little doubt this pandemic has been stressful for everyone. Everyone is reacting to this situation in some way, stress, anxiety, isolation, compassion fatigue, PTSD responses, etc. General education about stress reactions, compassion for others having stress reactions, good self-care, etc.
- PTSD responses from not only healthcare workers but other essential employees and many others. As noted post 9/11. We had a wide variety of reactions, responses and outcomes for long after the event. FEMA indicates that the peak of mental health crisis responses can be up to to 12 months post event. What do we do now to prepare not only our community but our providers for what we will probably see in the coming months?
- Economic recovery may be difficult for some. We saw a large increase in suicides post financial crisis of 2008. I fear that we may have a similar situation. How do we prepare and prevent for this?
These are just a few of my thoughts. Please let me know if you need anything further or would like to discuss.
Brett A. Hall LCSW, MBA