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Experts worried about long-term mental health implications from coronavirus (COVID-19)

Demand could overwhelm existing systems, officials say

Empty store shelves
Empty store shelves (AP)

DETROIT – Behavioral health experts are sounding the alarm about the long-term affects of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

They’re anticipating a sharp increase in demand for mental health services that could overwhelm exiting systems.

A recent poll found nearly half of Americans say the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health.

Mental Health America is seeing a spike in the number of people taking its online screenings.

“In younger populations, nearly half of those who screened are screening at the level of severe anxiety,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO of Mental Health America.

Long-term effects will likely ripple across all age groups, including sleep disturbance, hyper vigilance, PTSD, substance abuse, relapse and suicides, experts said.

It could result in a 10-20% increase in demand for mental health services, according to officials.

“We have to be honest and recognize that if we ignore this, or think that the mental health problems will go away on their own," Gionfriddo said. "They’re not going to do that because they never have.”

The “Cares" Act signed in March included $425 million for mental health services, and advocates are pushing for more in future stimulus bills.

“You cannot have health without behavioral health,” said Dr. Patrick Bordnick, of Tulane University

Tulane put together a site with self-care resources.

“These were designed so we can all take that mental break, just relax, give our systems time so we’re not in that anxiety state already,” Bordnick said.

Click here to take Mental Health America’s screenings.

Click here to visit Tulane’s self-care resources site.