New study shows Coronavirus pandemic affects mental health

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 8:05 PM CDT
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The American Medical Association will release a new study Thursday on how COVID-19 affects mental health. A University of Nebraska Medical Center psychiatrist talks about what this study means and how Nebraskans can stay mentally healthy.

The American Medical Association will release a study called "The Coronavirus Disease 2019." Steven Wengel, a Geriatric psychiatry director and assistant vice chancellor of campus wellness at UNMC says study shows COVID-19 has caused higher rates of anxiety and depression across the general population but there are certain groups more affected than others.

For instance, self isolation in nursing homes is causing mental health issues for the elderly. The lack of human connection and activities they normally enjoy is causing sadness for some. Healthcare providers are also more at risk for increased anxiety and depression during this pandemic. Some providers constantly worry about catching the virus or possibly giving to their families, among other worries.

If you are experiencing mental health problems Wengel said it's important to seek help. If you don't, untreated mental illnesses can cause physical health problems.

"When you're under stress that's not being treated we tend to produce more cortisol which is a stress hormone in the body. Cortisol tends to make your blood sugar go up. It tends to make you eat more and gain weight. So you can imagine the consequences of that," said Steven Wengel.

The study mentions social media's affects on mental health during the pandemic and it's not good.

"Social media is a good way of staying connected but as we all know too, its a two-edged sword. So there is misinformation out there and sometimes this can contribute to anxiety and depression," said Wengel.

Wengel advises people who want help to contact their primary care doctor first.

"Sometimes you don't need to see a mental health provider. Sometimes, often times in fact your primary care provider can treat depression, can treat anxiety right there and they're trained to do it. If they are comfortable doing it, I'd say that's a great place to start."

If people can't afford a doctor or don't have health insurance, there are 24/7 counseling hotlines you can call for free.

The Disaster Distress Helpline 1-800-985-5990

Boys Town National Hotline 1-800-448-3000

There are tips you can use to manage stress:

1. Get enough sleep

2. Exercise and get outside

3. Stay connected with positive people (Do not talk to people who are also depressed)

4. Get a therapist or visit a primary care doctor for help