Updated: Jul 3, 2020
I was recently asked several questions on the Barry Foster radio show about mental health and COVID-19. It seemed surreal to be on the radio, much less to be discussing how a virus was affecting anxiety levels, mood, and mental health care.
In my own cocoon within the stay-at-home orders, I had listened to the news, read the articles, heard from my clients and my peers but after a little digging, I realized this virus was not only affecting people’s health and mental health but changing the world around us.
Alcohol sales went up 55% during the COVID-19 outbreak. Folks were already anxious, depressed, and having difficulty dealing with being sent home from work and told to stay there. Now, they were drinking more. Self-medicating through drugs and alcohol. Not the type of ingredients to add to mood disorder symptoms.
As a depressant, alcohol will negatively contribute to mood symptoms and can increase risk taking behavior, anger outbursts, and can also affect one’s physical health in a negative way when used in excess. With more irresponsible drinking, abuse, neglect, and suicidal ideation can increase.
It turns out that actual baker-acts were up by 12% compared with the same time last year. A baker-act is when someone is at risk to harm themselves or someone else. People were not only threatening to hurt themselves, but others as well.
Calls for detox treatment were also up. Counselors reported that clients were experiencing more anxiety, depression, and more suicidal thoughts than during pre-Covid times. With only telehealth available, some folks might have been hesitant to reach out or just didn’t know where to turn.
Department of Children and Families did report that child abuse calls were down, but with no school in session, everyone at home and not in stores, daycare's, or visiting family, there were no eyes on these kids. Children were home with their abusers. Battered adults were also home with their abusers.
It seems the very ones that needed protection and treatment the most were not getting it.
With Phase two being implemented and the re-openings happening, people are getting out and seeking help. Counselors are heading back into the office and people are being seen both in person, as well as through telehealth. Hearing from clients and counselors, there were both positive and negative feedback on telehealth.
There are some counselors with health issues that did report they will not return to seeing clients face to face, and there are many elderly clients and people with health issues that have serious trepidation in returning to face to face sessions. It is evident that this virus has changed the landscape of the mental health industry, as well as identifying what is seriously lacking. With social distancing measures, many business owners are closing their physical doors and setting up shop online.
Where do we go from here?
This is still an unknown and not an answer that any of us wants to hear. Even now, changes are being talked about. The virus brought about new challenges that must be faced in the future.
All the data is not yet in as to how COVID-19 affected abuse, assault, and suicide. The Sheriff's department files a uniformed crime report annually with Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and these statistics are available to the public online. More numbers and statistics will be available by 2021.
With all this in mind, how can the community help each other?
Abuse happens every day. Mood disorder symptoms and depression can be hidden from others. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. Community can assist by putting more eyes on victims and reporting cases of abuse. Being aware of the signs of abuse and knowing who to call if they see abuse happening can help. Keep a close eye on family and friends who have severe depression and are experiencing suicidal thoughts. All this can help save lives.
Tri-County Human Services, Inc has resumed face to face sessions, although as of yet, groups have not resumed.
Keep these numbers handy and if you or someone you know needs help, utilize these numbers for assistance.
National suicide prevention 1-800-273-8255
Suicide help text line- #741741-Go
Peace River Crisis line- 1-863-519-3744 Toll free 1-800-627-5906
Domestic Violence3 Hotline- 1-863-386-1167
Tri-County Human Services telehealth-1-863-709-9393 (Avon Park office 1-863-452-0106)
Abuse and Neglect hotline- 1-800-962-2873
Detox Unit- 1-863-533-4139 (highway 60 East, Bartow, Florida) After Detox, inpatient treatment at Florida center is available for drug and alcohol treatment-Avon Park).
The Florida Center Avon Park inpatient addictions treatment-1-863-452-3858