Prisma Health: Uptick in mental health needs due to the pandemic

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – Local doctors are discussing the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health in the community. A group of Prisma Health psychiatrists are sharing the symptoms and possible solutions for those struggling with their mental health.

According to Prisma Health, adults, children, and the elderly have seen an uptick in mental health needs due to the pandemic. Doctor Peter Loper Jr. is a Child Adolescent Psychiatrist, he says it is important for parents to look for signs of mental health issues and suicide in their children. He names social withdrawal as a big red flag such as not wanting to engage with family or friends.

“Disruption of our normal life processes with school closures and with lockdowns, there is now efficient robust data that’s really reinforcing the idea that school closures and lockdowns are manifesting as adverse health mental health problems in kids and children and adolescents,” says Dr. Loper. 

Doctor Loper recommends parents to support their child’s mental health by spending time with them and by making sure they’re active. “There was a really big a study that was published in September 2021 where in the context of the pandemic, kids have stopped engaging in extracurriculars. And if you think about extracurricular activities whether it’s organized sports, band, or otherwise that is such a meaningful community and it’s a group of people working together towards a common goal. So get them back into their extracurriculars.”

Doctor Anu Nagar is Geriatric Psychiatrist who is pointing out the biological side of COVID-19 when it comes to mental health. “We have a virus that is invading the central nervous system, what it is doing is assaulting the brain.” 

Doctor Nagar also says COVID restriction measures were put in place to protect the population from contracting the virus but the lockdowns have had a devastating impact on the elderly community. She names signs that caretakers should look out for. “Changes in appetite is a big thing, weight change is a big thing, changes in sleep pattern, motivation, and this one may be hard for some people to imagine. . irritability.”

More than 900 thousand people have died from COVID leaving families with grief. Doctor Karen Lommel who is the Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Prisma Health says grief can take a toll on your mental health she warns people not to isolate themselves instead join group therapy. 

“Many people have experienced the loss of a loved one so when you come together and you realize you’re not the only one who is still feeling this way. And it can be months, there is no timeline — people shouldn’t say you should be done grieving, that is not true. Everyone should be doing this on their own timeline,” says Dr. Lommel.   

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