The Eastern Idaho Public Health board discussed the COVID-19 impact on mental health and resources available to Idahoans in the time of isolation and distancing.
Doctor John E. Landers, a Clinical Psychologist, presented to the board research conducted over the course of the pandemic on those struggling with mental health problems and how current numbers compare to pre-pandemic statistics.
According to Landers, there’s three times the amount of anxiety disorders as what was reported in the second quarter of 2019; 25.5% of reported symptoms as compared to 8.1%. Prevalence of depressive disorders is about four times what they used to be, jumping from 6.5% to 24.3% from the same time period.
“Suicidal ideation is at least double, if not just a little bit more,” Landers told board members. “Pretty significant canaries in the mind, if you will. Those are the ones we look for and say ‘wow, if those things are increasing, there’s probably a great deal of suffering in the community.’”
Landers stated that these numbers are a direct effect of the pandemic and those that are must vulnerable are those between the ages of 18 to 24.
For those in the 18-24 age group, suicide is the second leading cause of death in Idaho aside from accidents.
Minorities, with the exception of Asians, low income families, and those with less education are also at a higher risk for decrease mental health during COVID-19 and are considered part of the vulnerable population.
According to Landers, if these statistical trends in adults continue into adolescents, there’s cause for concern when it comes to youth. He states that with increased demand for mental health services, there’s a decreasing supply of local services where providers are overburdened.
“Younger folks don’t have control,” Landers said. “They’re in the co-pilot chair. They’re not in the pilot chair or the gunner’s seat. They don’t have the ability to attack or do something directly to control their situation. They’re being impacted by other people’s choices.”
Landers stated that being divisive as adults trickles down to the youth, so adults should join together in trying to create solutions that solve problems.
“The problem here is the contention and the divisiveness and that leads to confusion,” Landers said. “The best thing we can do, all sides need to come together.”
Kids access a lot of supports through schools and not following mitigation strategies removes those supports.
Families are placed under more strain with isolation orders and distancing protocols. Schools provide an outlet in times where people are regularly reminded to keep their distance. In April, Scott Miller of Therapeutic Interventions predicted a rise in anxiety, depression and anger on the negative side.
Miller suggested ways to limit strains in daily life include limiting news intake to once per day, napping, reading or just taking time to decompress.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, anxiety over a new disease can cause strong emotions and cause difficulty sleeping, fear about finances and health, worsened chronic and mental health conditions, and increased use of substances like alcohol and tobacco.
For those seeking help, community resources in Idaho include:
The Idaho Careline – 211
Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-208-398-4357 (call or text), or 1-800-273-8255 (call)
Department of Health and Welfare Behavioral Health – 1-208-528-5700
Behavioral Health Crisis Center of East Idaho – 1-208-522-0727
Those experiencing a decrease in their mental health or those in crisis can also call:
Disaster Distress Helpline – 1-800-985-5990 (press 2 for Spanish) to call, or text “TalkWithUS” for English and “Hablanos” for Spanish to 66746.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255 or English and 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish.
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233 or text ‘LOVEIS’ to 22522.
National Child Abuse Hotline – 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453.
National Sexual Assault Hotline – 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
The Eldercare Locator – 1-800-677-1116
Veterans’ Crisis Line – 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text 8388255