Pandemic triggers mental health issues, help is available

Updated: Apr. 14, 2020 at 5:52 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - North country health officials say they are concerned there will be a rise in suicide attempts and overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Jefferson County Crisis Response Hotline helps people in mental distress. In March, councilors received about 100 more calls than they usually do. Dr. Scott Ulberg, who oversees the hotline, says he thinks the increase is linked to stress from COVID-19.

"People aren't able to relieve their stress the way that they previously had. I think that in a lot of cases this has either lead to worsening of previous suicidal ideation or the onset of new suicidal thoughts," he said.

Dr. Megan McRae, clinical psychologist, says isolation can make depression and anxiety worse.

"This is a trauma type situation. We are all working in that adjustment disorder phase of this which triggers a lot that flight response a lot of those feelings of helplessness and hopelessness," she said.

Another group impacted by isolation are those battling drug addiction.

"People who are using or in recovery need connections and isolation is devastating," said Anita Seefried-Brown, Alliance for Better Communities.

Jefferson County Public Health has reported 8 confirmed overdose deaths in 2020. Right now these deaths can't be linked to COVID-19. However, officials are closely looking at drug use during the pandemic.

"People we are in contact with indicate that there is a higher degree of drug use during this time in order to self medicate to mitigate those feelings of hopelessness and anxiety," said Seefried-Brown.

No matter the situation, health officials say help and treatment is available. If you need help, here's a list of resources:

- Alliance for Better Communities: 315-788-4660

- Anchor Recovery Center: 315-836-3460

- Credo Community Center: 315-788-1530

- Pivot: 315-788-4660

- Samaritan Behavioral Health Services: 315-779-5060

- Jefferson County Crisis Hotline: 315-782-2327

- National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

- Mental Health Service NYS COVID-19 Emotional Support Line: 1-844-863-9314

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