Lakeland Regional Health sees spike in mental health calls related to pandemic, election

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – More people are seeking mental health assistance in Polk County during a stressful year of isolation and political divisiveness.

“The number of sheer phone calls has tripled or quadrupled,” said Alice Nuttall, Associate Vice President of Behavioral Health at Lakeland Regional Health. “We have an unprecedented request for new patient appointments in our outpatient clinic.”

Those people are calling the hospital for the first time seeking an appointment at the behavioral health clinic, Nuttall said.

“It’s very consistent across the board, depending on race, gender, age, it’s really affecting everybody,” she said.

Mental health experts know election seasons are always stressful. But a society already suffering from months of COVID-19-related isolation is finding it harder to cope.

“That part of our brain, it’s not processing that as easily because we’re raw. We’re raw because of all the other things,” she said.

According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, 68 percent of respondents say the election is a significant source of stress.

Another report from JAMA shows one in three people are showing signs of depression and anxiety this year. It was previously one in five.

To weather the storm, Nuttall suggests focusing on self-care and mindfulness while planning two positive actions a day.

“It could be five minutes of mindfulness or deep breathing while you drink your coffee in the morning and a phone call with your best friend in the evening,” she said.

Keep track of your sleep and your appetite. If issues persist over a prolonged period of time, seek help.

The best way to combat depression and anxiety is through connection, Nuttall said. Be mindful and intentional about who you surround yourself with.

Limit your media and social media consumption to pre-planned times in the day.

“I also can’t just have it on in the background just all day constantly. That’s unhealthy,” said Nuttall.

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