by Quentin Smith
During the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health has become one of the most important talking points because of how many people it has affected. People didn’t expect to be working from home and social distancing this past year and it has taken a toll on people’s overall mental health. According to an article on the CDC website, “Overall, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder (30.9%), symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic† (26.3%), and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19 (13.3%)” (Mental health, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 Pandemic – United STATES, JUNE 24–30, 2020 2020).
Mental health facilities right here in Colorado Springs have seen an increase in the number of clients they are seeing for various mental health disorders. Jennifer Lutman, owner of a local counseling practice called Overcomers, said that they have seen an increase in the amount of people seeking counseling, and they expect the trend to continue. When she was asked if she felt like her practice was properly staffed to handle the increase in client’s she said that her practice has opened a new location and have been hiring 4-8 therapists every 3 months since the pandemic started. However, Jennifer said that they are still in need of counselors because the need is just so overwhelming right now. She said that the most common struggles that people come to her practice for is for depression, anxiety, couples counseling and child and adolescent counseling. When asked if there is any silver lining to the pandemic, she said that the pandemic caused the mental health field to accelerate its plan of offering more telehealth services. She said that it has allowed people to get the help they need without leaving the comfort of their own home. Jennifer said that she sees telehealth in the mental health field expanding even after the pandemic ends and things get back to normal.
Cristyn Rohloff, a local Colorado Springs resident, was interviewed about her experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has affected her overall mental health. She said that her mental health has taken a hit this past year partly because of the pandemic. She admitted that other factors, having a baby and her husband’s heart attack, also played a huge part in her overall mental health. because of the prolonged periods of isolation. Mrs. Smith had a baby in February 2020 and so she spent most of the year in isolation because of COVID and the fact that she had 2 kids under the age of 3. Cristyn said she has struggled with anger, depression and anxiety during the pandemic. She said that by nature she is more of an extrovert, so she feels like it was especially hard for her to adjust to the requirement of an isolated lifestyle for a period of time. Cristyn was asked if she thinks that social distancing will become a permanent part of some communities and she replied, “I don’t think this will continue as it already seems to have fallen apart for the most part. While there are suggestions and for most public places representation of where to stand or closing off tables at restaurants, this is not something I foresee as feasible to be policed or managed in public places. There may be some element of people, in general, being cognizant of their space around others but I don’t foresee employees or managers in stores and restaurants wanting to take on managing that. I also believe that as soon as the restaurant business gets the green light to move back into 100% capacity that many are not going to shy away from that seeing as they’ve taken such a huge financial hit.
As a licensed counselor herself, Cristyn knows the importance of self-care and gave some good advice for people struggling with mental health. “When COVID first started one thing I told my clients was to take walks, facetime with family and friends, explore a new hobby, and start a new exercise routine”. She often tells her clients to resist the urge to isolate because this can make the symptoms of depression and anxiety worse. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the one year mark now and it has had a lasting impact on our lives and our overall mental health.