Fresno mental health checkup: the impact of COVID, poor air quality

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Self-isolation brought on by COVID-19 has taken its toll on the mental health of our society since the pandemic first began.

But now wildfires burning across the state appear to be re-igniting raised levels of anxiety and depression as California's air quality has forced many to stay indoors

The Central Valley has been blanketed with a heavy layer of ash over the last few days

"Now we're sort of cooped up in the house and we're not able to get out and get that essential vitamin D that helps ward off the depression," said Dr. Michelle Scoggins.

Fresno psychologist Dr. Michelle Scoggins says the combination of isolation, fear of getting sick, job uncertainty and now our poor air quality is creating the perfect storm for those feeling overwhelmed by everyday challenges.

Any one of those conditions would be enough to raise anxiety and depression levels, but they all seem to be converging at once for many.

"I'm finding with my clients that live alone, they're especially struggling being socially distant from people. So I'm seeing a lot more depression in people that live alone," Dr. Scoggins said.

While the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down -- medical experts worry about the long-term effect it could have on American's mental health.

Fresno County reported 18 suicides in the month of June alone -- that's almost double from the previous two years.

"Suicide rates are expected to be on the rise only because we aren't able to get out and do our normal behaviors," Dr. Scoggins said.

Dr. Scoggins recommends picking up a hobby while at home and reaching out to friends on social media or pick the phone to call them. She also believes laughter is the best medicine when battling depression.

"Try something new, laughing a lot helps," she said. "Watching something on television like a comedy, or just doing something fun and try to enjoy yourself the best way you can."

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Copyright © 2020 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.