Experts detail long-lasting mental health impact of pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN)— Vaccines, changes to the Centers for Disease Control’s mask recommendations and nice weather seem to signal we may be nearing the end of the pandemic. But mental health experts say we are in for the long haul when it comes to mental health and substance abuse issues brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We see that light at the end of the tunnel as far as the physical side goes,” said David Berman, vice president of harm reduction and crisis stabilization at Mental Health America of Indiana. “But the mental health repercussions and the addiction repercussions are going to be with us for a very, very, very long time.”

Berman said Hoosiers now have a personal journey after enduring and surviving a global pandemic.

“We need to make sure that we put the resources in place,” Berman said. “We need to be understanding and patient as we get back into the workplace or reintegrate with our friends or family, that not everybody is in the same place as we may be mentally.”

Berman said spring is one of the months with the most suicides nationwide, and that was pre-pandemic.

“You see folks that are getting back out there, and they’re socializing, and you’re still in that same place of depression and isolation,” Berman said. “I think this is going to be very similar.”

The state launched the Be Well Indiana resource site as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here Hoosiers can find free mental health resources around the clock.

Last summer, the Be Well Indiana Crisis Helpline was also launched. From August through the end of January, Berman said the number of calls increased by 110%.

“From the most critical where there’s an imminent threat of life for an individual or someone else,” Berman explained. “Parents that can’t imagine e-learning anymore with their kids or folks that are worried about the economy or potentially losing their job.”

People can also call 211 any time to get connected to local resources. Experts say access to mental health care is too important for people to let finances stop them.

“I think reaching out for assistance truly is a sign of strength,” said Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor with Community Health Network. “It’s more difficult to be vulnerable, and that’s why it takes a certain amount of strength and bravery to say, ‘I’d like a little support and help.’”

(This story was originally published on March 10, 2021)

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