Mental health issues increasing in Florida during pandemic

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 5:22 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - Florida is facing a mental health storm as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state’s Children and Youth Cabinet was told Wednesday the pandemic has also changed how people are receiving mental health treatment.

This time last year, census data showed one in seven people reporting anxiety or depression.

The number has mushroomed to 25% in the pandemic.

“A concerning national increase,” said Dr. Thomas Joiner.

Joiner runs the Psychology Clinic at FSU.

“The way that we are thinking about this is as larger mental health storm,” said Joiner.

Fueling the anxiety are isolation and social distancing.

Another factor is that there are more than a million new people on the state’s welfare rolls.

FSU has responded by ramping up telehealth sessions.

“Their suicide risks from January, February went down from March to April. We attribute it to ongoing engagement via telehealth,” said Joiner.

First Lady Casey DeSantis, who chairs the Cabinet, has been championing children’s mental health following Hurricane Michael.

She said the number one question she gets from parents is how to identify mental health issues.

“How do I know what the warning sign, symptoms are?” said DeSantis.

The answer according to Joiner, is right in front of the parent.

“What are you thinking? Secondly, have you seen departures from what you know to be the status quo?” said Joiner.

And, to help spot those with anxiety or depression, Florida State has begun training every faculty and staff member to spot changes in behavior.

“From the entire campus, people who don’t specialize in mental health, how to be on the lookout for students who might be in crisis. What are some of the signs and symptoms for them,” said Joiner.

And experts say when the pandemic ends, the explosion in telehealth will remain.

Copyright 2020 Capitol News Service. All rights reserved.

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