Mental health is a factor in the COVID-19 Pandemic.
With increased stress due to the virus, the economy, social injustice issues, and the upcoming United States general election, mental health issues are a concern.
Eric Thomason, PMHNP, the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas Behavioral Health and Addiction Treatment Services Clinic Director, answered the following questions in an email interview with fortscott.biz.
Thomason said he is seeing a spike in people needing mental health services.
Thomason gives a recap of the pandemic, starting with how it began.
” It was this invisible thing, which we didn’t know much about, and it was killing people. This is an anxiety-provoking idea. We started to see the spread through urban areas of the United States. A lot of us collectively held our breath and thought, “How long until it is here?” Instead of carrying a belief that tomorrow can be better today, we removed the hope that tomorrow can provide.
Hope: A Weapon Against Depression
Hope is the single most important weapon in the battle of depression. One of my primary jobs is to restore hope. To restore a very simple idea, that if I get up, get dressed, and keep fighting, today can be better than yesterday.”
“The economic fallout has been tremendous. I treat a lot of blue-collar hard-working folks from Fort Scott and the surrounding areas. Our community members are some of the hardest hit in the nation due to involvement in livestock operations. I have had patients who lost jobs in the foodservice industry or as a part of other health care clinics. The removal of employment does two terrible things. It reduces our income and it reduces the perception of our value and purpose. Employment gives us a sense of accomplishment. If we did nothing else today, we finished our days’ work. COVID-19 took that away from a lot of the hardworking individuals I serve”
Social Support Systems Needed
“Lastly, social support systems are profoundly important to our wellbeing. Social isolation is often a symptom and predictive factor of depression. COVID-19 increased our isolation, thus increasing our risk of depression.”
Have there been more substance abuse issues during this time?
“Unfortunately, the rate of substance abuse, accidental overdoses, and death related to drug overdose throughout the nation has increased. Some national tracking services such as the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program estimate that drug-related overdose has increased over 40% across the country. This is in part to the removal or lack of coping strategies as well as treatment dropout rates due to social isolation and fear of COVID-19. One of the ways we worked to combat treatment dropout is to offer telephone, telemedicine, and in-person appointments despite COVID-19 spread throughout our communities. This is a testament to our incredible staff who chose to continue to serve and provide support to our communities when we were needed the most.”
What are some practices that people can do to help themselves with their mental health?
- “Be honest with yourself or listen to your loved ones. If you aren’t doing well or someone you trust says you aren’t doing well, please get help.
- Social distancing does not mean social isolation. Get on Skype, Zoom, Facetime, etc to have social interaction. The telephone is not enough.
- Eat a balanced diet and get plenty of exercise. You can socially distance and exercise outside. CHC/SEK offers Wellness Services that includes a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Nutritionist, and Fitness Coordinator.
- Avoid illicit drugs and alcohol.
- Stay away from social media and political radicalism. We should be supporting one another during this difficult time, not tearing each other apart.
- Be there for someone. Make a difference in someone’s life and you will feel better for it.”
Is a physician referral needed for mental health services?
“It is very easy to access any of our services. No physician referral is required. You can contact our Fort Scott Clinic at 620-223-8040 and ask about any program or service offered through CHC/SEK. Our goal is to answer your questions as efficiently as possible.”
Does insurance cover mental health services?
“Mental health services are covered under most insurance plans. For any specific questions, please contact our clinic and we can help determine your plan’s coverage. We work with our patients to determine if they would qualify grant-supported treatment and/or sliding scale fees. Always remember at CHC/SEK we treat all individuals regardless of their ability to pay for service.”
“You are worth believing that tomorrow can be better than today. You are worth being a better father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, employee and/or boss. You are worth treatment. In a world where everything is outside of your control, you can control whether you pick up the phone and ask for help. CHC/SEK is committed to being that help.”