Pandemic taking toll on mental health

The toll the novel coronavirus takes on a person’s health are well-documented—the spiky proteins latch on to healthy cells, especially those in the lungs, leaving them inflamed and causing coughing, difficulty breathing and possibly pneumonia and more serious complications.

The effect on mental health is discussed far less, and in this instance, people need not even test positive to suffer.

During a Community Wellness Webinar hosted by The Shelby County Chamber on Tuesday, May 12, local experts touched on this aspect of the pandemic that perhaps has not received as much attention.

Capt. Clay Hammac, executive director of Compact 2020, a collaboration among law enforcement agencies to identify youth at risk for drug abuse, said the organization has seen those who have a disposition toward unhealthy choices become even more susceptible to experimentation or self-medicating with narcotics during a time of frustration.

“We have identified more students who are struggling at this time,” Hammac said. “We find students longing for those social relationships they had in that school environment.”

Central Alabama Wellness Executive Director Richard Fallin said his organization has seen a 12-percent increase in services rendered during the quarantine period.

“This has been a really stressful time for all individuals,” Fallin said.

And the COVID-19 outbreak has placed a unique burden on those at the frontlines of the battle, including first responders and healthcare workers.

During the webinar, Shelby Baptist Medical Center CEO Daniel Listi noted the difficulty of not allowing loved ones to be present with patients.

“We know having an advocate for a loved one is a really big deal,” Listi said. “That’s been really taxing on us.”

Adding to the complexity of the issue is that as we are quarantined, we are less able to check on those who may need help.

Central Alabama Wellness offers a Crisis Hotline that can be reached at (205) 651-0077. Give them a call if the mental health of yourself or someone know is suffering during this time.

Stephen Dawkins is a staff writer for the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at 669-3131 ext. 537 or by email at stephen.dawkins@shelbycountyreporter.com.