A recent study at East Tennessee State found that Tennesseans “are showing increased levels of anxiety and depressive disorder ...” said Dr. Candace Bright, an ETSU professor and social science researcher. “We’re seeing high levels of mental health impact” in the state, she said. Especially those who lack a support network of family and friends.
Elderly folks living alone, for example, may be having difficulty coping. For some, it may be too much. “The ultimate marker of the virus’s mental toll, some experts say, will show up in the nation’s suicide rate, in this and coming years,” writes Benedict Carey, science reporter for the New York Times.
“A national survey conducted in 2019 found that 8.2% of adults had symptoms of anxiety and 6.6% had symptoms of depressive disorder,” Bright said. “Using the same question in the Tennessee poll we found 35% had symptoms of anxiety.”
Similarly, the poll found 20% of people had symptoms of a depressive disorder. It’s a huge increase in just one year that has not been sufficiently addressed by federal pandemic relief measures. That makes private efforts to help with coping all the more necessary.
One example is Cherished Mom, a local nonprofit program established two years ago for mothers with postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders. Founder Kristina Dulaney says the pandemic has created new challenges.
“We’re seeing people that have that history of trauma, history of depression, history of anxiety, even though they’ve gotten through it, this time has triggered more,” Dulaney said. “So they’re having to go back to therapy and get back on medication or whatever works for them, where it’s not only affecting the postpartum moms, but the moms that have experienced that in the past. ... Even if they didn’t experience it, they’re finding it more difficult during this time because there’s been … heightened anxiety, increased isolation, which just makes anything hard.”
Dulaney started the organization after having a personal experience with a perinatal mood disorder that hospitalized her for several weeks. Though she’s a registered nurse, at the time she knew very little about postpartum mental disorders.
“If we can spend more time educating the moms and the families and providing them the appropriate resources to get them the help that they need, that they know they are not alone and that it’s OK to seek help, the better we’ll be,” she notes.
You can help Dulaney’s outstanding efforts by visiting cherishedmom.org. There are many national programs and efforts available for those suffering from pandemic-related mental disorders listed at the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov (search for “depression”). But given the stark increase in such disorders the federal response has been lacking.
There should be an outreach effort on where and how to get help for those having difficulty dealing with the pandemic. To date, the focus has been on dealing with the medical aspects. For too many, the psychological impact is just as dire.