Mental health concerns increase due to quarantine
March 23, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has unprecedentedly altered our way of life from healthcare to the education system. Healthcare has been the most heavily impacted by the pandemic. Following healthcare, mental health recovery and treatment are one of the forefronts of secondary issues involved in the effects of the virus such as adversities in treatments and recovery options
Outlets of recovery and treatment such as intensive inpatient and outpatient programs, therapy sessions, and support groups have been altered greatly through COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing.
According to a study done by Fair Health, mental health diagnoses in adolescents aged 13-18 in April 2020 increased 93.6% in comparison to April 2019. Overdoses and substance use disorders in adolescents 13-18 increased 94.91% in March 2020 in comparison to the previous year. Intentional self-harm for adolescents aged 13-18 increased 90.71% in March 2020 when compared to the previous year.
Mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, addictions, and eating disorders have all been affected in some way by the pandemic. Even the littlest things like social distancing guidelines can give off a sense of loneliness, stress, and anxiety.
Counselors and therapists like Daniel Micheals who have experience in behavioral and mood disorders, addictions, and eating disorders have faced challenges in providing the best care possible for their clients. Micheals is a licensed professional counselor who specializes in anxiety, depression, and school issues.
Emotional distress has been rampant across the U.S. “At my practice and speaking with other therapists that work in the Chicago land area, most therapists have noted an increase in mental health symptoms,” Micheals said. “The pandemic affects people differently. ADHD with online classes may present different struggles than someone who has panic attacks.”
Micheals has used the pandemic as an opportunity in his practice to encourage his clients struggling with addictions to keep themselves accountable. “People will try to be more accountable, like getting rid of stashes of alcohol or drugs,” Micheals said when addressing the challenges of addictions, relapses, and more individual healing and recovery.
I hope that because of the pandemic, the mental health community will come together and fix a lot of the problems we have currently [with stigma and treatment options]. [The pandemic] has reinforced my belief that people are resilient.”
— Daniel Micheals
Quarantine is teaching clients to be more independent in their recovery process. With few face-to-face treatment and recovery outlets, self-accountability is important in recovery processes and preventing relapses. Clients are having to self-advocate more and express more openly when they are struggling or when they have relapsed so that they can get back on track.
There are lights at the end of the tunnel for therapists. Telehealth services have made mental health recovery more accessible. This makes transportation methods not a factor in connecting the patient to the therapist, which may be a struggle for some. Additionally, the emphasis on mental health is surging and creating hopes for normalizing mental health struggles and reducing stigma involved with reaching out for help.
“Personally I do think something is lost not being able to see your counselor face to face,” Micheals said. “You miss out on a lot of nonverbal communication and even in person miss out on a lot of facial expressions with masks.”
Currently, counselors alongside Micheals are providing care to patients through telehealth, or phone and Zoom sessions, to continue working with clients in these unprecedented times. The financial barriers in mental healthcare have been most prevalent with insurance providers, “most insurance providers don’t offer telehealth services,” Micheals said.
“I hope that because of the pandemic, the mental health community will come together and fix a lot of the problems we have currently [with stigma and treatment options],” Micheals said. “[the pandemic] has reinforced my belief that people are resilient.”
Linden Oaks Behavioral Health Institute in Naperville deals with behavioral health, addiction, anxiety, and eating disorders through their inpatient, outpatient, and support groups and programs. Trish Fairbanks Associate Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer spoke about the implications of COVID-19 on mental health seen through Linden Oak’s program.
Capacity has been reduced significantly from 108 to 92. This led to many changes for units of care in terms of meals, rooms, and therapy sessions.
“We reduced our bed capacity from being 108 down to 92,” Fairbanks said. “That meant we had fewer beds for people.”
Scheduled appointments have also been drastically reduced at Linden Oaks in comparison to pre-pandemic.
“When people did present for services, they were either walking into Linden Oaks in a full-blown crisis or they were ending up in the emergency room after having a psychiatric crisis,” Fairbanks said.
Patients getting admitted to Linden Oaks are tested for COVID-19 and, once fully admitted, are tested regularly. If a positive test result occurs, patients are put into an isolation ward and receive treatment.
Everyone is required to wear masks and maintain social distancing even during group therapy sessions. Patients also eat in their rooms and do not have roommates to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread within the treatment center and specific units. Eating disorder units utilize fiberglass enclosures to allow socialization and monitoring during meal times.
There have been significant increases in adolescent admittance to Linden Oaks. The increase has become so drastic that an adult ward had to be converted and used as an adolescent ward.
The most significant increase seen within Linden Oaks has been in inpatient and outpatient eating disorder units.
“I think it was easier to hide some of the behaviors [of eating disorders before the pandemic] and now are seeking treatment,” Fairbanks said.
If you’re struggling, even if you’re not struggling, being close to people can help manage some of those mental health symptoms.”
— Daniel Micheals
Chemical dependency units have seen a decrease in patients. Fairbanks’s theory is that those struggling with addiction are most likely using it as a means of coping with the stress of the pandemic and are not yet ready to come to terms with the fact that they need to seek help.
During the pandemic, Linden Oaks and Edwards-Elmhurst Hospital have been focusing on also providing care for the nurses, therapists, and other healthcare workers on the frontline of the pandemic and mental health crisis. Frontline workers are encouraged to take time off and talk to teams of therapists and healing members.
The mental health of frontline workers has been a great focus during this time and has allowed for their health to be taken care of. Cards sent to hospitals thanking frontline workers have encouraged and given them a sense of hope and connection with their communities.
Micheals and Fairbanks both are hopeful that more people will come forward to receive treatment. also hope that mental health stigma in our society will diminish through media coverage and overall compassion and empathy from others.
“Selfcare is a word that everyone seems to be using right now,” Micheals said. “Honestly the big three are sleep, exercise, and eat since they are all key in regulating our bodies. If you’re struggling, even if you’re not struggling, being close to people can help manage some of those mental health symptoms.”