Following a year of the coronavirus pandemic, nonprofits and mental health care providers have reported an increase in demand for services relating to mental health struggles.
Evan Roberson, executive director of Tri-County Behavioral Healthcare, spoke with Community Impact Newspaper about what some of the causes of mental health care struggles in Montgomery County have been and how the organization has seen an increase in patients seeking help.
Responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Has Tri-County been seeing an increased demand for mental health services?
A: Yes we have. Last year ... we weren’t seeing much of an increase, and we had anticipated it, but we are certainly seeing it now. We are seeing a lot of folks seeking it for anxiety and depression across our three-county service area. There are a lot of people that managed with medication through their primary care physician but are now seeking psychiatric services for the first time in their lives. We also have a group of people that have never been treated before that are now seeking treatment. A lot of that depression and anxiety ... is accumulated stress. It’s not just one event; it’s a lot of events stacked up on top of each other, and folks aren’t doing really well with that stress level.
Q: Can you point to some causes of accumulated stress that may be affecting people as a whole?
A: We talk a lot about how we have all lost something in all of this, even if it’s just a change in routine. Some folks have experienced a lot of loss through this pandemic. As loss and the potential of more loss, whether it’s life or health or whatever it might be, initially you might be anxious or depressed, but that escalates into pretty significant problems. You see an increase in substance abuse ... then you start to see relationship problems and personality changes that escalate over time when the stress continues to build. People with less support ... when they go through this kind of crisis, they really begin to struggle.
Q: Have you noticed any interesting findings over the course of the past year?
A: The folks we are seeing in crisis are more complicated than they would have been a year previously. What we have seen is that people went kind of underground for a series of months, and then they have come out, and now they are not doing well. They waited a long time to get care.
Q: If people are looking at getting care, who should they be talking to?
A: It really depends on what kind of resources people have. One thing I would tell to people is that it’s OK to seek help if you’re not doing well. Depending on the symptoms you have, it might mean finding a friend to talk, or working through mild anxiety or finding a trained professional to help with those issues. In many cases, we see folks that need medication to get through a depressive episode. We encourage people to seek the help they need. Something I would advise everybody to do is to think about how they are functioning. Are they upset all the time? How do they handle a new stressor? Depending on where they are, they may need to seek help.