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Mental health effects of COVID-19 on our community

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 6:02 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We talk a lot about the physical effects of COVID-19 but there’s new concern on the mental health trends we’re seeing in our community. One treatment center in Augusta tells us their appointments are backed up nearly three months and the patients they’re seeing are getting younger.

One psychologist said that he’s seeing a huge increase in children needing help and their parents and even their teachers. He says our community isn’t prepared to handle this many people with mental health needs.

“It’s truly like the everyday person who is really struggling,” said Dr. Jeremy Hertza from Neurobehavioral Associates.

People who never needed counseling or therapy before. Dr. Hertza says that his practice Neurobehavioral Associates is overwhelmed with patients.

“COVID has essentially eliminated for a lot of people their traditional coping skills. Where before you may have hung out with your friends to feel better, or maybe you go to the gym, a lot of that stuff has been limited,” said Dr. Hertza.

For families, it’s virtual school. Children trying to manage wearing a mask or parents noticing learning problems.

“Because they are with them all day maybe their tolerance and frustration would be different,” he said.

Dr. Hertza says he’s seen appointments for children quadruple. While adults are facing new relationship issues and challenges with work-life during a pandemic. But he can only handle so much and there are no inpatient mental health services in our major hospitals.

“Where we were understaffed before it’s a gross problem now,” said Dr. Hertza.

Student health counselors are stepping in at Augusta University. Dr. Elena Petrova says stress and anxiety are the top two concerns for students brought out oftentimes by the pandemic.

“The primary focus has been reaching out to students to make sure they don’t fall through the cracks,” said Dr. Petrova. “Navigating courses, coursework and learning remotely taking exams virtually, or really the entire academic experience.”

Or for our community, the entire experience of COVID-19 leaving counselors and therapists with more challenges than they can handle.

Dr. Hertza says his practice is actually involved with inpatient therapy now at doctors hospital. That’s an effort they started recently because University and AU Health are no longer maintaining their inpatient units. He says even though services are overwhelmed please don’t hesitate to get the help you need.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts please call 800-273-talk or 800-273-8255.

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