COVID-19 raises mental health concerns, resources available

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- As families across Central California shelter in place, experts say the COVID-19 crisis has created a perfect storm for stress, anxiety, and depression.

Merced College Psychology Professor Joel Murpy says, "our most difficult thing to deal with in life is adjustment, and we're having to adjust. I have many clients that their school is affected, their work is affected, their bills are affected, and so they're trying to figure out how do they cope with that."

Murphy also has a private practice that includes substance abuse counseling. He says he has seen an increase in people turning to drugs and alcohol since the pandemic began.

He explains, "I've seen that many of my clients are using more than they have in the past or are struggling more than they normally do with the cravings they would normally have."

Action News also spoke with Dr. Sidra Goldman-Mellor, an assistant public health professor at UC Merced whose studies include the impact of societal factors on mental disorders. She's concerned about the potential for increased suicide rates due to a number of factors, including isolation and unemployment.

She says, "unfortunately, this particular crisis, it has some of the features that are the worst for mental health because it's unpredictable, and it's unclear when it's going to end and sort of unpredictable stress is the kind of stress that is most damaging to mental health."

Experts say we can all take steps to combat those feelings by staying connected with loved ones virtually, exercising, getting sufficient sleep, and proper nutrition. Governor Gavin Newsom also announced in his latest address that the state is now providing additional mental health resources.

"We have 16 hotlines that we have made available including text chat lines where people can address their particular needs," Newsom said.

You can find those hotlines, including 24 hour numbers for suicide prevention and domestic violence support at covid19.ca.gov.
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