COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Mental health professionals say they’re trying to prevent a mental health crisis sparked by the increased anxiety, isolation and fear caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Even people who haven’t had a mental health diagnosis before, we’re seeing increasing levels of anxiety and worry,” said Dr. Delaney Smith, the medical director for the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Franklin County.
Smith estimates the stress caused during the health crisis could cause lingering mental health effects even after the pandemic subsides.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) and Prevention Action Alliance hosted a virtual town hall meeting Monday to connect mental health providers across the state to discuss crisis prevention. At least 160 people tuned into the webinar to hear strategies for staying connected to clients.
“Providers are still available,” Smith said. “It may look a little bit different and that may be tough for some people.”
Earlier in March, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an executive order to address the increased demand for medical and mental health services. The order relaxes some of the rules for patients and clients to use telemedicine, an electronic way to provide health services remotely.
“What we don’t want to have is 88 different counties reinventing the wheel, trying different things, everyone sort of on their own page,” Smith explained. “We want to learn from each other and the state is really bringing together those entities.”
Smith said many providers are paying extra attention to clients, particularly those recovering from substance abuse, who would otherwise lean on social connections and in-person counseling.
She said providers are working diligently to make sure everyone’s mental health needs, including providers themselves.
“It’s really a balancing act of being there for your own family and dealing with the anxiety that everyone has, but also putting yourself out there to care for other people,” Smith said.
Here are some resources if you’re experiencing a mental health emergency:
-Crisis Text Line: Text keyword 4HOPE to 714-714.
-Toll-Free Helpline: Call 1-800-275-6364 during expanded hours 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255