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COVID-19 pandemic affects mental health

Posted at 9:25 PM, Sep 27, 2020

SALT LAKE CITY — A lot of people are feeling the effects on their mental health because of COVID-19, especially when there is a spike in cases and outlooks change.

Utah is experiencing its fourth day in a row of more than 1,000 new positive cases, and while that's cause for concern, it is also affecting those who are already strained by the virus as it pertains to mental health.

"There are more of us in our general population that are endorsing having symptoms of depression and anxiety,” said Dr. Travis Mickelson, the medical director of mental health integration at Intermountain Healthcare. “Alcohol and substance abuse-related emergency departments have increased… Suicide rates have increased.”

While the need increases during stressful times, the reality is that most people who are in need of services don’t ask for them.

“Most people that are really struggling out there aren’t asking for help” Mickelson said. “Sometimes we need to avoid… But substance abuse is really an example of an avoidance technique.”

There are some healthy ways to face these feelings head-on, some of which Mickelson laid out:

  1. Focus on what is in your control instead of things that you can’t — like the virus itself.
  2. Communicate your feelings to those you trust like family members and friends, along with seeking professional help. Talking to those around you will also help them recognize when you are having issues and help you better.
  3. Set aside time each day and schedule something that relaxes you, whether it be music, walking, exercising or something else you enjoy.

There is a bit of good news — because so many are in need of mental health services right now, there is a lot of access to various programs.

Intermountain offers the Free Emotional Health Relief Hotline. The number is 833-442-2211 and is staffed with those able to answer your concerns about mental health.

Ultimately, Mickelson says he hopes anyone that feels they need it seeks treatment.

"Seeking help and asking for help is not a sign of weakness," he said. "It's a great sign of strength, and there are a lot of resources out there.”