The impact of the pandemic on social determinants of health, such as employment, income levels, and housing and food security has led to a growing concern regarding the long-term impact on mental health. These factors are also leading to new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. During the pandemic, four in 10 adults in the U.S. reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. Previously one in 10 adults reported these symptoms from January to June 2019 ().
Young adults in particular are vulnerable to the mental health effects of the pandemic resulting from school closures, suspension of social activities and stress being felt by their parents. Suicide rates have long been on the rise and may worsen due to the pandemic. Early 2020 data show that drug overdose deaths were particularly pronounced from March to May 2020, coinciding with the start of pandemic-related lockdowns.
“All of us are experiencing different challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Will County Executive Bertino-Tarrant. “It is important to protect our mental health as it is our physical health. I encourage anyone who is feeling overwhelmed or isolated to reach out for help.”
Limited access to mental health care and substance use treatment, due to a current shortage of mental health professionals, has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Social distancing requirements have also impacted group therapy sessions and inpatient treatment services. History has shown that the mental health impact of disasters outlasts the physical impact, suggesting today’s elevated mental health need will continue well beyond the coronavirus outbreak itself.
“The pandemic has disproportionately affected the health of communities of color,” said Scott DuBois, program manager for the Division of Behavioral Health in the Will County Health Department. “Members of the black and Hispanic communities are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression which are also impacted by food insecurity, housing or job loss, and challenges to accessing mental health care.”
Stress can cause the following:
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness, or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy, desires, and interests
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes
- Worsening of chronic health problems
- Worsening of mental health conditions
- Increased use of tobacco, alcohol, and other substances
DuBois wants residents to know behavioral health services are available to adults, adolescents, or children experiencing these symptoms through the Will County Health Department.
“Our Behavioral Health Department provides outpatient community mental health services to adults age 18 and older with mental illness and/or a history of a serious mental illness to help stabilize and restore individuals to their maximum level of life functioning,” he said.
Other services include the Acute Community Services program which provides mental health services to Will County residents without health insurance. The ACS program provides mental health services to individuals within 24 hours of discharge from an Emergency Department and within 48 hours of discharge from other levels of care to include hospitalization. The Mobile Crisis Response Program (MCR), services can be offered to families in their homes or other familiar environments, through culturally and linguistically competent services. The Child and Adolescent Outpatient Mental Health Program of the Will County Health Department is a community based, culturally competent mental health outreach model that serves children and adolescents ages 3-17 with symptoms of serious emotional disorders (SED).
Psychiatric and medication management services, individual therapy, and group therapy sessions are available at the health department locations Joliet, Monee and Bolingbrook.
“Mental health is an important part of overall health and well-being,” said DuBois. “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make healthy choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood.”
`For immediate assistance, please reach out to:
- Will County Health Department’s Call4Calm – Text TALK or HABLAR to 552-020
- NAMI Helpline (800) 346-4572
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.8255
Other resources for individuals struggling with anxiety, depression, or feeling anxious, confused, overwhelmed or powerless:
· The CDC How Right Now (Qué Hacer Ahora) is an initiative to address people’s feelings of grief, loss, and worry during COVID-19. For help https://howrightnow.org/
- The national Disaster Distress Helpline is available to anyone experiencing emotional distress related to COVID-19. Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to speak to a caring counselor.
- Vibrant Emotional Health’s Safe Space at //vibrant.org/safespace.
· Veterans Crisis Line. 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1.