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Mental health “surge” likely as study finds 1 in 3 COVID survivors experience emotional setbacks

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Coronavirus Mental Health Web

(KWWL) -- About 34% of COVID-10 survivors developed mental health issues within 6 months of infections, according to a new study by the UK's Oxford University.

Consisting of mostly Americans, the study looked at 230,000 patients after they were diagnosed with COVID-19.

"If we haven't seen it yet, it's coming," said Tom Eachus, the executive director for Black Hawk Grundy Mental Health Center in Waterloo.

Eachus notes they've seen an increase in mental health symptoms for current and new patients that contracted COVID-19. He says the Oxford study supports what's been occurring locally, which first presented itself among patients' worries.

"Am I going to be able to support my family? Can I recover from this thing that I got? How can I afford to live if I don't have a job? Can I work? A lot of worries and anxiety internally,” Eachus said.

As things progress, Eachus says the anxiety traded off with an increase in depression. Seemingly, those who were hospitalized with COVID-19 are struggling more. Eachus understands why.

“Just the slow recovery and anything that causes that among of physical dysfunctionality can have dramatic impacts on people's mental health,” Eachus said.

Prior to the pandemic, mental health was struggling as a field, according to Dr. Peggy Nopoulos, the head of psychiatry at the University of Iowa's Carver College of Medicine.

"'We have never seen demand for psychiatrists this high in our 30 year-history,'" Dr. Nopoulos said, quoting a recruitment firm that projects a national shortage of psychiatrists of 16,000 by 2025.

At the same time, during a virtual discussion Wednesday, Dr. Alison Lynch, director of addiction medicine for the University of Iowa Healthcare system, said alarming data continues to come in from last year on opioid, overdose deaths.

"Right now we are on track to have 90 thousand deaths in 2020," Dr. Lynch said.

Still, whether its seeking treatment for substance abuse or counseling for anxiety, mental health providers also have to combat public misconceptions.

"We deal with stigma everyday, and I wish more people would call and say 'I just need to talk to somebody.' That would be the day that I was able to retire because that would be the day where people have reduced that stigma to the point where we make it okay,” Eachus said.

Black Hawk Grundy Mental Health Center information can be located here.

Resources at the University of Iowa can be found here.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please seek help.