Mental Health Crisis in California: Experts Cite COVID-19

mental health

Mental health experts have issued a warning about the volatile nature of the pandemic. Reopening and closing counties is causing a spike in severe cases of anxiety and depression. But some disease experts argue that this method provides the most flexibility.

Over the past week, Governor Gavin Newsom has rolled back the reopening plan. On Monday, Santa Clara County hoped to open limited public spaces. Citizens looked forward to getting a haircut or visiting the gym. But Newsom announced that counties on the watch list would have to resort back to an earlier phase of reopening. This means closing restaurants, hair salons, and gyms. Five out of the eight Bay Area counties appear on California’s watch list, including San Francisco.

Mental Health Meltdowns

The pandemic has affected overall mental health across the country. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll recently found that the pandemic has affected at least 56% of adults’ mental health. Bay Area hospitals agree that the fallout of this pandemic is not just physical. Dr. Chris Colwell is the Chief of Emergency Medicine at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. He noted, “We’re seeing between eight to 10 (patients) a day that are expressing suicidal ideations.”

He acknowledged that patients handle this stress in different ways. “The two patterns are suicidal or on the path to get there and then the other group: those who are responding with anger.”

Andrea Zorbes practices psychology in the area. She also claims her patients express an uptick in anxiety and depression. She believes the state of the world is having neurological effects. “It sends a fight or flight response. It sends cortisol to the brain and sometimes we don’t breathe deeply and sort of go into panic mode.”

With the closing and reopening, she said there is: “Back and forth of a lot of mixed emotions. We are happy for a little bit and then we hear the next day another stay-at-home order and we are hit with a wave of fear again.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. Chin-Hong feels that this is the best strategy, though. He argues, “I think it’s done for specific reasons. Which is that it keeps you vigilant. It is more tiring but it gives people the most flexibility.”

All experts suggest focusing on the present and working through feelings a day at a time. Spending too much time concentrating on forces out of your control can just make symptoms worse.

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