Americans increasingly reaching out for mental health help during coronavirus pandemic

Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 7:59 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Meditate, exercise and eat healthy.

This is advice from internist Dr. Alan Reisinger for those struggling with their mental health.

He said many of his patients need help right now.

“We are seeing anxiety, stress, frustration, depression and even insomnia as well,” Reisinger said.

Social isolation during the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll, and Reisinger’s patients are not alone.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports a nearly 900% increase in calls to its Disaster Distress Helpline in March compared to the same time last year. The service offers 24/7 counseling and support.

“We know that when people are put into a situation like this, which really none of us have ever experienced before, that includes so much social isolation and the inability of people to have contacts with loved ones, with their support systems, that this can really have effect on peoples’ mental health over time,” Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use.

The agency also runs the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. McCance-Katz said the hotline is not receiving a large increase in calls yet, but they are watching closely.

“We are really quite concerned about people feeling that life just isn’t worth living anymore and potentially trying to take their lives,” McCance-Katz said.

Doctors say if you already have a history of mental illness, continue treatments through telemedicine.

If this is your first time experiencing mental health difficulties, reach out for help and consult your primary care doctor.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, you can call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

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