COVID-19 taking a toll: Mental health experts seeing an increase in crisis calls


BUCYRUS — When the COVID-19 outbreak first started making news in the United States, people didn’t know what to expect. More than three months later, area residents are still dealing with uncertainty and the unknown.

And that means anxiety and depression are becoming the norm for many.

Cindy Wallis, executive director of Community Counseling Services of Crawford County, said client calls are actually on the rise compared to when COVID-19 first started.

“What we’re seeing is crisis calls are going up,” she said. “People were afraid to go to the hospital the last couple months, and now the reality has set in that this isn’t over. That’s part of the issue now.

“Part of the long-term problem is people are realizing that this could go on for another six to eight months, or even a year,” Wallis explained. “What does that mean for their employment? What does that mean for their housing? What does that mean for their food? What does that mean for parents with kids who don’t know what the school schedule is going to be? Childcare is a huge issue.”

There is a sense that despite months of restrictions and changes, little has really changed.

“People are realizing this isn’t going away. This is actually long term. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The reality is setting in We’re seeing a lot more depression, anxiety, panic attacks,” Wallis said.

The mood currently in Crawford County is much different than March and April, when COVID-19 news really started to ramp up.

“When this first happened we were shocked because calls went down,” she explained. “We spoke to a lot more people by phone, but as far as needing to send people to the hospital, that went down a little bit because people were afraid to go to the hospital because of COVID-19. Now, it’s like this is part of life, and that’s sad. This is something you wouldn’t see in this country. This is a third-world issue, right?”

Area residents are uncertain about the future and they are angry about the drastic changes in their lives.

“People are fed up with being cooped up,” Wallis said. “They’re fed up with masks. There is so much confusion. Should they wear a mask? Should they not wear a mask? On top of that is the uncertainty of riots and the instability of what’s going on nationally. People are fearful. They don’t know if they should go shopping or other places because they don’t know what they’re going to see.”

In an effort to better deal with stress and fear and anxiety, counselors are trying to teach people natural coping skills.

“We remind them that eating healthy is good, that getting good sleep is important, too,” Wallis said. “Sleeping affects your mood. It affects your ability to respond. It affects your ability to problem solve. Getting a good amount of sleep is critically important.

“Being aware of what you can control is important, too” she continued. “We know there are a lot of things out of our control in this world. So what can you control? You can control how much TV you’re watching, how much news you’re watching. And how much of that news you are exposing to your kids.

“What we’re seeing in kids — where parents have the news on — that little kids, they can’t process this. Teenagers can’t process this. Most adults can’t filter what’s going on.

So take control of what you and your kids are dealing with on a daily basis.

“Control what you can control, and what you can control is your immediate environment,” Wallis said. “Are you eating well? Are you spending time with family? Are you limiting time on social media?”

At Community Counseling, people have the option of coming in person to seek assistance or do telehealth.

“From the beginning, we’ve given the patients the option,” she noted. “Some people feel more comfortable coming in and some people only want to have their session by telehealth. We’re going to keep that up until telehealth is no longer an option. As long as it’s an option we’re going to keep allowing that.”

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Mental health experts see increase in crisis calls

 

By Jodi Myers

Galion Inquirer