May is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issue and every week on WSFL-TV, we are going to fight the stigma so many experience.
“Because of the intense isolation and not being able to interact like I used to, I think what really happened was my mental health definitely fluctuated,” said Benjamin McAfee.
McAfee was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in college. The pandemic intensified Benjamin’s emotions, as the closure of his school isolated him from friends, resources and a familiar routine.
“I would have experiences of suicidal ideation and at the same time I would also have experiences of being extremely hyperactive [and] being manic,” he said.
He’s not alone.
A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 63% of 18- to-24-year-olds reported symptoms of anxiety or depression over the past year, with 25% acknowledging increased substance use to deal with that stress and 25% saying they seriously had considered suicide.
Across the country, suicides prevention hot lines throughout the pandemic have reported an increase in phone calls. The Crisis Text Line, a free service that helps people in crisis, reported that in Florida, “conversation” volume went up 25 percent from the year before.
“Statistics are showing that alcohol use, illicit drug use, mood issues such as depression and anxiety are really through the roof and I’ve been seeing that as well,” said Dr. Beau A. Nelson, DBH, LCSW, Chief Clinical Officer at FHE Health.
Dr. Nelson said for those who are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression, it’s important to seek for help right away, especially individuals who’ve already been diagnosed with a mental illness.
“Whether it’s young people, adults or older adults, each one of us is really facing a lot. So in this situation we’re seeing patients, who might have otherwise been managing their symptoms, they’re noticing that they’re more severe. With that, you want to be able to connect with your support systems and professionals as needed so you can better manage your mental health,” said Dr. Nelson.
“Many people are going through this and having that support and having those resources is really going to get you through this. At the end of the day, you can’t really deal with these issues or go at this alone,” said McAfee.
There are numerous hotlines to call for help for those in a crisis, but if you feel you are at an emergency stage, call 911.
NAMI Broward holds various support groups and virtual events. They are holding a special webinar on Wednesday May 12 at 7pm, that will cover “After Effects of COVID-19 on our Youth and Children”. To sign up for this webinar or others, go to https://namibroward.org/nami-events/ [namibroward.org].