YOUR HEALTH MATTERS: ‘Tsunami of mental health needs’ in wake of pandemic psychologists say
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Over the past two years, mental health experts have reported an increase in mental health challenges. Most recently the CDC said in 2021 alone more than a third of high school students reported experiencing poor mental health during the pandemic. Throughout Mental Health Awareness month we will be covering a range of factors on “Your Health Matters” that could impact your mental health. One of those factors is COVID-19.
Recently, mental health experts shared that more people are prioritizing their mental health as much as their physical health since the pandemic.
“All of the mental health providers in our area will tell you that there has always been a big need for mental health services, especially for kids and adolescents, and it was getting bigger even before we entered the pandemic,” Tiffany Born, a pediatric psychologist at Bellin Health emphasized. “Now, it is a tsunami of mental health needs and unfortunately the demand very much outweighs the supply for mental health care at this point.”
With May being Mental Health Awareness month, health experts are emphasizing the importance of self-care as many experienced highs and lows throughout the pandemic.
“I think that the pandemic took away a lot of our coping strategies,” Born highlighted. “It took away our knowledge of what’s going to be happening next. That’s really important for us to feel secure in our lives, and it took us away from our connections that are really important to us. It took our kids out of school. It took a lot of us out of the workforce for a while.”
According to the CDC, in 2021 more than 40% of high school students reported persistently feeling sad or hopeless during the past year. Now, as we move into the endemic stage of COVID, it doesn’t mean stressors go away. Psychologists say watching daily violent footage of the war in Ukraine can add to the compassion fatigue many of us are feeling.
“Sometimes mental health issues can be invisible.” Shilagh Mirgain, a psychologist with University of Wisconsin Health said. “Just having somebody reach out to you when you’re struggling, can really safeguard your overall well-being and can help you feel cared about and also when you feel cared about you start caring about yourself.”
Medical experts recommend a healthy dose of exercise to release powerful endorphins to boost your mood.
“Exercise is one of our best natural anti-depressants,” Mirgain spotlighted. “So getting outside, spring is here, warmer weather is around the corner. “
Along with exercise, psychologists have a few other recommendations. One is doing things that bring you joy like a hobby. Second, try not to drink too much alcohol, it can lead to better sleep. Finally, do something generous for someone else, like baking cookies for a neighbor, or calling up a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Experts say that when we step outside of ourselves, it makes us feel like we’re making a difference.
Annie Krall is a former writer and producer for ABC NEWS New York City on the national medical and business units. Prior to that position, she was accepted to medical school her senior year at Northwestern University, after spending four years as a pre-medical student. However, Krall deferred her acceptance to pursue a Master in Health, Environment, and Science Journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.
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