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Addiction, Mental Health And COVID-19

You are probably very aware of the term “perfect storm.” Well, in the COVID-19 world we live in today, we are very much facing that type of an event. NBC News recently made an entire story out of the deadly mixture of quarantines, mental health and substance abuse, which we thinks deserves some further attention.


In a segment that was featured on the MSNBC show Morning JoeChief Medical Correspondent Dr. Dave Campbell spoke at length about the severe emotional challenges facing people today. Dr. Campbell accurately pointed out that before the coronavirus outbreak, roughly 1 out of every 5 Americans struggled with mental health issues. Now that number is far higher, driving people to drink, use drugs and even take their own lives.


A more recent trend that is undoubtedly creating more anxiety is the rise of COVID-19 diagnoses and deaths. Many states, including our own California, are initiating complete lockdowns and the news cycle has continually put out alarming headlines. This “perfect storm” of events, Dr. Campbell believes, is leading to a major spike in addiction cases across the country. And with more scary stats released every day, there is a strong possibility that the dependency numbers will continue to climb.


“The coronavirus pandemic has put a spotlight on the quiet crisis of mental illness and substance use disorders, like no public health crisis in the past,” Dr. Campbell explained. “The diseases of despair are spiking across the country as the pandemic surges. Increased alcohol consumption, drug use and thoughts of suicide continue to threaten large swathes of the United States. Public trust in the government to mount a safe and effective response to the pandemic and its mental health fallout has been eroded.”


The NBC piece went on to interview Eliana Leve, Director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Center of New York. She strongly echoed that sentiment, explaining how their facilities have seen a huge increase in addiction cases over the past nine months. Her advice was for people to reach out to recovery clinics as early as possible, emphasizing that treatment is much more effective before mental health problems escalate.


As New York Mayor Bill De Blasio told Morning Joe, mental health is at the root of many long term problems even beyond addiction. Addressing it early through therapy and support is critical to avoid more addiction crises across the U.S. In his opinion, feelings and anxieties should be openly discussed at an early age. And De Blasio does hope that this health pandemic may expose that belief a little bit more.


“I think there will be a silver-lining for this pandemic,” De Blasio concluded. “I think it will wake us up to things that we have to do differently starting with our kids. We have to reach every child in school with mental health support.”