Mental health, substance abuse needs for those overwhelmed rising

‘We have seen an uptick in the use of alcohol and troubled drinking.’

SAN ANTONIO – While the coronavirus pandemic has created a host of health and economic problems, beneath the surface of all that is another crisis.

Mental health professionals say this new problem may take longer to see in full view and longer to heal. They are preparing for a post-pandemic epidemic of emotional and mental health counseling cases, as well as a need for substance abuse rehabilitation services.

Officials at Laurel Ridge Treatment Center, a private hospital, they are already seeing signs of what is to come. While the facility is not taking visitors, they are open and treating patients and are currently employing about 600 staffers to accommodate the demand.

“It results in a prevalence of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as substance abuse,” said Laurel Ridge Treatment Center CEO Jacob Coyle. “We have seen an uptick in the use of alcohol and troubled drinking.”

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This is not a surprise to those who have lived through other traumatic world events. In fact, since COVID-19 first emerged as a potential pandemic, those in mental health circles began to promote the need for awareness.

“We saw with previous natural disasters and other large events, whether it was Hurricane Ike, Hurricane Katrina, and including after 9/11, where there’s clear evidence that there was uptick in the rate of depression as well as the rate of substance abuse and alcohol use,” Coyle said.

The problem will be complicated this time because of several unique facts. Children are out of school and many are operating outside of an imposed schedule, regular meals and school day bedtime. Add to that unemployment, and the lack of social interaction for those staying home, and those who may have kept their emotional or substance abuse issues under control now may have trouble holding it together.

Coyle said neighbors and friends need to be pay closer attention to those around them, particularly if someone has a pre-existing mental health diagnosis or abuse issue.

“We already, by social distancing, we’re seeing a level of isolation. But where we see if we see an escalation in some of those changes in behavior, we’re acting out. Changes in sleep patterns and changing and eating patterns. It’s OK to ask questions,” Coyle said.

Officials recommend that if you are finding trouble staying sober, or controlling your anger, seek immediate help through Bexar County’s Center of Health Care Services hotline number at 800-316-9241. To find a hotline number for another county, click here.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.


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