Pandemic Mental Health Issues Are Beginning To Surface, Says Chestnut Ridge CEO | Health

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Chestnut Ridge Counseling Services CEO Mike Quinn said the mental health issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are only now being revealed.

Quinn said she’s seen a “dramatic increase” in calls to their crisis line with people having suicidal thoughts, an additional number of walk-in clients, and an increase in mental health issues among young children, teens. teenagers and teenagers.

“I truly believe that the true impact of the pandemic on community mental health is only just surfacing,” he said.

Many of the mental health issues are linked to anxiety and depression. Children are particularly susceptible to the disruption of routines, unpredictability and lack of structure that have become hallmarks of the pandemic, he said.

“Our biggest concern, in some ways, is and continues to be children and adolescents,” Quinn said.

Young children, for whom the last two years represent a large part of their lives, have experienced little socialization. He noted growing concern among school administrators for children entering third grade, who have yet to experience a normal year of education.

“These kids, because of the disruption, really haven’t been in a structured school setting. They come into third grade really unprepared emotionally if you will, he said. “[School districts] call, they say ‘Can you consult us? We see behaviors that we really have never seen before. I think it really shows the impact the pandemic has had on mental health, for years, especially for the impact on children.

He said many young children have not had the opportunity to develop socialization skills such as cooperation through interactions with other children. Children can become frustrated when they struggle to adapt, he said, and can face anxieties in their interactions.

In response, Chestnut Ridge is increasing resources for these children in anticipation of increased needs, he said.

Middle and high school students also experienced an increase in mental health issues, he said, with an increase in anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts or ideation.

“Some of them have suffered real trauma from the pandemic – relatives have fallen ill or died,” he said.

Teenagers are particularly affected by social isolation, he said.

Chestnut Ridge also operates New Directions, a therapeutic mental health school in the former John F. Kennedy Elementary School in the Laurel Highlands Area School District.

“Referrals of children and adolescents for the therapeutic school program continue to increase. We are getting closer to the maximum capacity of this program,” he said.

Quinn said school districts have called on Chestnut Ridge more frequently to provide mental health services to their students; he praised school administrators for recognizing the need and responding to it.

Adults have been affected by similar concerns as children, facing increased anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. He said they too have experienced increased isolation which has exacerbated mental health issues.

“People are a bit hesitant to reenter society, and I think that leads to a bit of anxiety,” Quinn said.

He said when people return to routines that are more like their pre-pandemic lives, they notice mental health issues surface.

Quinn said the mental health field has faced shortages of clinicians, therapists, nurse practitioners and other providers, much like the rest of the medical field, and a limited number of staff are tasked. to serve a growing number of customers. He said Chestnut Ridge is able to see new and existing patients quickly, while in other parts of the state some children wait three to six months for an appointment with a child psychiatrist.

He said Chestnut Ridge quickly ramped up its virtual visits early in the pandemic and saw about 85% of its clients through telehealth at the time. Telemedicine is a silver lining of the pandemic, he said, which is especially helpful to clients in Fayette County where transportation issues are rampant.

He said a client without reliable transportation can spend an hour on a Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation (FACT) bus to get to a 20-minute appointment and spend another hour returning home. Even those with reliable transportation sometimes prefer virtual dates with high gas prices, he said. Today, about 40% of their appointments are through telehealth, he said.

“If there’s anything positive that’s come out of the pandemic, it’s very rapid adaptation to telehealth and telemedicine,” he said, adding that they will continue to offer those services. to customers.

“It’s really a paradigm shift for the delivery of mental health care in the future,” he said.

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