Mental health care crisis ongoing

When Covid-19 arrived on the scene, the United States was already facing an epidemic. Suicide and opioid overdose was its name.

Psychcongress.com advises that in 2018, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in this country. In that year, drug overdose deaths more than tripled. Emergency room visits increased significantly. But the advent of Covid-19 has changed a few things. While there has been a decline in emergency room visits, the Disaster Distress Hotline calls increased by 891 percent in March over the same period in 2019, the report says.

What is someone in crisis supposed to do, where are they to go, when facing not just the problems they already were dealing with, but now have added stressed due to the pandemic. The factors for risk of suicide have multiplied their worries with high levels of anxiety and uncertainty, loss of a loved one, other negative life experiences, relationship problems, social isolation and underlying mental health conditions. Life doesn’t just stop when a virus becomes a serious, viable threat.

On reopening face-to-face visits with health care, providers have been good and helpful for clients who have been relying on telehealth or no contact at all with the assistance they need to keep going forward with their lives. Face-to-face contact is important in treatment for substance use and related mental health disorders.

“Treatment should focus on suicide risk and underlying mental and/or substance use disorders,” according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (www.sprc.org/)

“To receive the best possible care, clients need easy access to the professionals who can help them,” says Psychcongress.

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that, “For people with insurance coverage, an increasing barrier to accessing mental health care is a lack of in-network options for mental health and substance use care.” The uninsured must pay for services out-of-pocket. Unemployment increases cause some workers to lose medical benefits or they must find another source to help cover the expenses of treatment.

Another related problem is the shortage of mental health providers, the report says. The CARES Act, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) as well as telehealth and other remote care programs have been initiated and policymakers are working on making needed changes and improvements over the long term.

No one knows the full impact that Covid-19 will have on humans. It is a constant study to increase medical knowledge of the virus, how to combat it and its effects on us. Stress and strain, burnout, can happen to anyone, including the frontline health care workers like the doctors and nurses and others who are trying to keep up with the needs of patients, the essential employees who have worked throughout the shelter-in-place period, and everyone else as we see spikes in the disease, the mandating of wearing masks in some areas, the beginnings of shut-downs and lock-downs in other states and as we face the uncertainties of the immediate future and beyond.

A phone call will cost you nothing but can make a difference for you. Talking to someone who will listen – really listen – to what you are saying can help you to get on a path in the right direction. The Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached at 800-273-8255.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. Visit the web site at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.


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