Mental health deteriorates for some while braving pandemic, impacts seen as suicide rates rise

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Life turned upside down for Americans in March of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the majority of the world. As the nation approaches the two-year anniversary of the ongoing pandemic, health experts are observing its impact on Americans’ mental health.

Not only did people experience a public health crisis — they lived through a year of political turmoil, calls for social justice and polarization over masks, and social distancing.

As people focused heavily on keeping themselves and their loved ones safe from the virus, about four in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder.

News 3 spoke to Dr. Michelle Sanchez, a licensed professional counselor, about how these stressors have impacted our mental health. Sanchez says just as a patient would go to the hospital for a physical illness or injury, the same should apply to mental health.

“It’s the same thing. If you let depression or anxiety go and you don’t treat it, so many different things can happen,” Sanchez said. “It can affect you, it can affect people around you. It’s important to treat it, like I said earlier, just as if it were physical.”

Mental health, when left untreated, can have fatal consequences. Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan says they’ve seen firsthand the impact on the Columbus community.

“Suicides, we’ll average 50 to 60 per year. We’ve seen an increase in that recently. Especially with some of the active-duty military, elderly folks,” Bryan confirmed.

No matter how old or how much baggage a person carries, Dr. Sanchez says it’s never too late to seek a therapist.

“A good therapist loves somebody like that. A good therapist loves someone that has a lot of things to unpack because we want to help you unpack it and we want to open that suitcase, close it back up, so you can have a great trip for the rest of your life.”

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health or need assistance, click here to be connected with a skilled, trained mental health professional.

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