Coronavirus pandemic affecting mental health of Floridians


(Credit: Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – Florida is facing a mental health storm as a result of the 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 report suffering from anxiety or depression.

The number has mushroomed to 25 percent in the pandemic.

”A concerning national increase,” said Dr. Thomas Joiner. “The way that we are thinking about this is that’s as larger mental health storm.”

Joiner is in charge of the psychology clinic at Florida State and says the anxiety is being fueled on isolation and social distancing as well as more than a million new people on the state’s ongoing unemployment crisis.

FSU has responded by ramping up tele-health sessions as a result.

“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 Florida Children and Youth 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.

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

“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.

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


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