Health professionals seeing upswing in patients seeking mental health care
By Barbara High
Tribune Staff Writer
KEYSER - With the COVID pandemic ongoing, most people have had to deal with a lot of changes and difficult times over the past year. Many people are dealing with fear, anxiety, and stress. These conditions have affected the mental health of those individuals and can have damaging affects.
Many health professionals say they have seen a large increase in those seeking mental health help, including in our area.
Darren Wiley, licensed professional counselor and the clinical coordinator of Potomac Highlands Guild, says they are no exception. Wiley said they have seen a definite increase in those seeking help for their mental health.
“We’re seeing an increase of stress and anxiety during this pandemic, and more people are seeking help,” he told the News Tribune.
Wiley also said they’re seeing an increase of referrals for mental health from physicians’ offices. Wiley explains that mind, body, and spirit are seen as connected. Some people who are experiencing fear, stress, and anxiety now will see it manifest into health problems for which they are seeking care from their physicians. Also those who are experiencing other health problems, or have contacted COVID or have family members fighting it, are starting to experience anxiety and stress. “It’s all related,” he said.
A lot of things are causing a rise of stress and anxiety and much of them stem from the current pandemic. With pandemic news on every station around the clock, there seems to be no escape. People are becoming ill with the virus and/or having family members afflicted. Some have lost loved ones. People who are social distancing can find themselves feeling isolated. Many have lost jobs due to the pandemic and are facing financial difficulties. Some have jobs in the medical field and are facing extreme stress at work.
Wiley says that some people who are really active in social or religious groups and find themselves unable to attend those things have experienced a loss of what many considered their support groups and contact with peers.
Now more than ever people need to stay in contact with family and friends. Keep open lines of communications, and support one another. Using phone calls, zoom, and video messenger, people can keep up with one another and be able to talk and support each other.
Many are also finding themselves working from home and trying to do virtual learning with their children, which can add even more stress.
Children too are not immune to the stress and are also seeking mental health more than ever at this time. With not having their normal social settings and lack of interaction with peers, they too are facing increased amounts of stress and anxiety.
There are many things caused by the current situations that are affecting the mental health of the public and a lot are reaching out for counseling and support.
“It takes a strong person to seek help when needed,” Wiley says. ”The stronger person seeks it.”
With the stigma of mental health finally being put to rest, more and more people seek the help of counseling to find healthy ways to cope, and in the middle of a pandemic, that is more important than ever.
“We have a solid team at the Guild, and are accepting new patients,” he said. “We have counselors and psychiatrists that can handle psychiatric medicine if needed.”
Wiley says they have a well-rounded staff to help those seeking help find the right fit, and find someone they can trust and feel comfortable working with.
Counselors are able to talk to patients and provide coping skills to destress, decompress and help; to deal with the ever-mounting anxiety that many are facing at the time. Self care, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises are a just a very few things they can guide you with.
“Coping skills is not a one-size-fits-all,” he says. “There are so many different types of coping techniques and your counselor will help find the right ones to help you and your situation.”
Mental health help during the pandemic is also easier to receive now more than ever. With telehealth appointments, people who may not have been able to have access to transportation can receive the help they need over the phone.
One problem that many face is when to seek help; when to reach out. Wiley says people may find themselves facing panic attacks, problems sleeping, overwhelming fear, and memory loss, to name a few.
“Truly symptoms are all over the board,” he says. “Don’t wait till you get completely burned out, or until you turn yourself into the ground,” says Wiley. “Many people wait until they find it’s more than they can bear.”
According to the Center for Disease Control website those who a higher risk for issues may include;
People who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 (for example, older people, and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions).
Children and teens.
People caring for family members or loved ones.
Frontline workers such as health care providers and first responders,
Essential workers who work in the food industry.
People who have existing mental health conditions.
People who use substances or have a substance use disorder.
People who have lost their jobs, had their work hours reduced, or had other major changes to their employment.
People who have disabilities or developmental delay.
People who are socially isolated from others, including people who live alone, and people in rural or frontier areas.
People in some racial and ethnic minority groups.
People who do not have access to information in their primary language.
People experiencing homelessness.
People who live in congregate (group) settings.
CDC says stress can appear in man different forms and can cause different affects including;
Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones, your financial situation or job, or loss of support services you rely on.
Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
Worsening of chronic health problems.
Worsening of mental health conditions.
Increased use of tobacco, and/or alcohol and other substances.