COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The pandemic has hurt the economies of communities nationwide, but research shows the virus is also taking a mental health toll.

New data from the CDC has revealed 40 percent of Americans are struggling with mental health issues because of the pandemic, with the most common issues being anxiety and depression.

The CDC report said young adults have been impacted the hardest, with 75 percent reporting at least one mental health struggle.

Kenton Beachy, the executive director of Mental Health America of Ohio, said its own data shows the numbers to be even higher.

“Roughly 9 in 10 of people aged 25 and under who are screened are screening with moderate to severe depression; 8 in 10 are screening with moderate to severe anxiety,” said Beachy.

He added that one of the reasons for the increase in anxiety could be the uncertainty still surrounding the pandemic five months in.

“We don’t know when we’re going to able to have sports again or school again and get back to the way things used to be,” Beachy said. “It’s uncertain when the vaccine is going to be available and then how long will that even take to be in effect and who will be willing to take the vaccine. So there’s just so much uncertainty and that adds to levels of anxiety for people.”

This time last year, Ohio State’s campus was filled with energy as thousands of students were moving in, free to move around and meet each other for the first time.

That’s not exactly happening this year with staggered move-ins and social distancing pledges.

Beachy say that lack of social interaction could also be hurting those young adults.

“There’s nothing that replaces in-person, face-to-face contact with people, and so, staying connected through social media or video chats or whatever, it’s just not the same,” Beachy said. “We really miss that personal contact with people and that’s one of the things that’s causing people to take risks in order to be together and not wear masks and be in groups.”

Students agreed with that assessment.

“It’s really hard to deal with this because just having the whole year kind of shut down when it was in March, going back home, just kind of learning how to live a new life with masks and social distancing, it was a struggle for me,” said OSU student Dennis McAfee. “You get used to it at a certain point and you just kind of have to accept that this is a new normal.” 

“It can get boring really easily, so you just gotta look for stuff you can do to keep yourself entertained and happy,” said OSU student Adam Lontoc. “It was difficult when I was at home, but I’m here in college now with my friends, so it’s nicer.”

But after a weekend on campus, McAfee admitted to a new stress in his life.

“They’re doing the best they can with the situation, but I just don’t know how long we’re going to be able to maintain living on campus with everything,” he said.

Beachy says it’s important for anyone feeling any mental health issue to reach out for help, whether from a professional or even just friends and family

“It’s just having that ability to reach out to people, share your feelings, share what’s going on with you and try to get as much support as you can from the people around you,” he said.

For a list of mental health resources in central Ohio, click here.

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