HOUSTON – The impact of the coronavirus is taking a mental health toll on so many. More people are taking anti-anxiety medication and experts believe it could get worse.
How do you know if you might need help? What about someone you love? We are here to help.
Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medication has risen 30% from February to March of this year. Experts say 78% of those were new prescriptions, meaning not refills. Experts are also saying this is a time where mental health problems turn to physical symptoms.
"I think people are afraid,” said Dr. Chris Fowler, Methodist Hospital, “Afraid of the unknown, afraid of the experience of being cooped up and being stuck in their houses for a long period of time.”
As we slowly start easing back into normal routines, experts say this might be the time when people start feeling more anxious.
“There will be an increase of fear as they begin to emerge from their houses after the lockdown,” Fowler said.
Signs a person might need help
Is it time to talk to someone? Does the person you love need help? Here are the signs you or someone you love might want to consider getting mental health help.
“They may have difficulty sleeping, particularly falling asleep through the night,” Fowler explains. “They could have irritability or low distress tolerance, meaning the things they could normally deal with, they are having a difficult time with.”
Other signs include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and difficulty concentrating. Ignoring the problem or trying to power through could only make it worse.
“When we try to suppress our emotional reactions like fear, it actually amplifies them, makes them worse,” Fowler said. “People can often manage very well during the crisis. It’s when life gets back to normal they have a rebound of anxiety because they’ve been holding it together for their family and loved ones for a long time. So this return to normal, they no longer feel normal.”
How to approach a loved one about getting help
Fowler said if you notice someone you love may need help, don’t be afraid to just talk to them.
“The next step is to say, ‘Hey I’ve noticed this, would you like to do anything about it?’ So with the extent that we can give our loved ones control the situation as you possibly can while also guiding them towards care is a really good approach,” Fowler said.
Many people will survive this and make their way through this without the help of an expert. Often, just talking about it can really help.
“Sometimes it is really bringing it to their attention in the first place and encouraging them to make a plan which is the best part,” Fowler said.
You can call the Harris Center for Mental Health crisis line to speak with someone directly. The number is 1-833-986-1919.
The national crisis text line allows you to connect with a crisis counselor for free by texting CRISIS to 741741. Volunteer social workers and clinicians reply within minutes and are available 24/7.
Depending on your insurance or Medicare/Medicaid options, you can find mental health professionals through Teladoc, Amwell, Doctor on Demand, or MDLive. Your primary care physician will also be able to help connect you with a mental health professional.
You can also find a therapist through apps like TalkSpace, which connects you to a licensed therapist through not just video chat, but texting. Subscriptions start at $260 per month but include unlimited text, video, and audio access to a therapist five days a week.