Surge in mental health resources expected due to isolated lifestyles | KOB 4

Surge in mental health resources expected due to isolated lifestyles

Tommy Lopez
Created: May 05, 2020 10:15 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Conditions related to COVID-19 are taking a toll on our mental health, and there’s going to be a lot more people reaching out for help in the future. That’s what a local psychiatrist told KOB 4 Tuesday.

Many New Mexicans are feeling lonely, stir-crazy or even just “off.” KOB 4 talked to Dr. Caroline Bonham, a psychiatrist with University of New Mexico Health Sciences.

Question: How can isolation negatively affect us?

Bonham: “It’s stressful for all of us. Being social is really an important part of wellness. If all of us have differences in the way that we’re interacting with folks. That can cause stress. I think also, for many of us, it’s caused changes and disruptions to our routine, whether we’re getting up at the same time, and going to bed at the same time, and exercising in the same way, all of that’s changed, and all of those can have an impact on our emotional well-being.”

Numerous studies reveal effects of quarantine on mental health, showing people often have an increase in anxiety, irritability and depression.

Question: How has being isolated affecting those already using mental health services?

Bonham: “What we’re seeing is the effect of substance use, and so some folks that were in recovery or grappling with substance abuse problems are noticing that it’s sometimes really hard to stay sober or to not relapse with alcohol and substances at this time.”

She says mental health symptoms will get worse for many of us, which could have lasting effects on our society, including an expectation of a surge in people looking for help in the future.

Question: What does the future hold?

Bonham: “There’s a lot of uncertainty, and so I think none of us know exactly what’s going to happen with our society, what’s going to happen in the next six months, in the next year, so all that uncertainty and ambiguity can also add to the stress that we’re experiencing.”

In handling the influx of patients, Bonham says telehealth could be useful. More agencies are already using it more often in order to follow social distancing guidelines.

She says along with getting sunshine, regular sleep and connecting with others, people can help themselves by being generous --  reaching out to a friend or family member and making sure they’re doing okay.

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