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Caregivers Facing Mental Health & Addiction Challenges

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has become a major burden on Americans across the country. There are job losses, financial burdens and general anxiety about contracting a potentially fatal disease. One other huge stressor during this time has become caregiving, whether it is for children or an elderly relative. And on that topic, it does appear as though caregivers could be more prone to addictions and mental health struggles right now.


U.S. News and World Report recently shared some stats that speak to caregiver addiction risks during COVID-19. And that, of course, is in addition to the already alarming dependency trends that are occurring right now.


In a recent survey conducted by The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly one 1 of every 10 respondents said they had increased their use of alcohol or illicit drugs over the past four months. Additionally, one quarter of the respondents reported symptoms of trauma and mental health related disorders.


Unfortunately, the stats are even worse among parents and caretakers. Staten Island University Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Sullivan was quoted in the U.S. News article; discussing the pain this group is experiencing (particularly when it comes to caring for elderly family members).


“In the new report, over 30% of caregivers reported suicidal thoughts, as did more than 21% of essential workers,” Sullivan explained. “The strain on unpaid caregivers for adults — people taking care of disabled loved ones at home — seems particularly troublesome. According to the study, the rate of substance abuse or suicidal thoughts among unpaid caregivers more than tripled between May and the end of June.”


Interestingly, it appears to be younger caretakers that are experiencing the most hardships. Those in their 20s who are now having to look after an older loved one saw higher rates of anxiety, depression and substance abuse.


And as we mentioned above, add to that a job loss or a dramatic loss in income and you have a real recipe for trouble. Guilt and fear play into this scenario too, as older loved ones are at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Younger caretakers can experience severe anxiety over the fact that they may unwillingly transmit the disease.


Dr. Sullivan added one more quote at the end of the piece, urging city leaders to put more emphasis on recovery and mental health services for those in need.


“More must be done to help those already in need to access mental health services,” he concluded. “That includes regulatory and insurance support for telepsychiatry services to reach individuals in traditionally underserved communities and those who are reluctant to seek care because of fear of infection.”