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Coronavirus

Stress lingers even as the country starts to emerge from coronavirus pandemic

Columbia, Mo. (KMIZ)

More than a year has passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and many are recovering from the associated isolation, anxiety and uncertainty.

The pandemic has caused more than 1 million deaths worldwide. Experts say that toll has contributed to mental health problems including anxiety, depression and other trauma and stress-related disorders.

The pandemic has been traumatic for some people, with severe stress lingering even months after cities and states have begun to reduce restrictions. Stress can cause sleeping problems and changes in appetite, increase substance abuse and worsen already existing physical and mental health problems.

Megan Steen, director of outpatient services at Burrell Behavioral Health, said health and safety are common concerns for people right now, causing people to feel anxious in places that felt safe before the pandemic.

"This is balanced with many people dealing with social isolation and many people having the desire to be back with family and friends. Loss of employment and loss of housing are things people may have never experienced before the pandemic," Steen said.

Steen said since the start of the pandemic Burrell has seen more adults experiencing anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol consumption or drug abuse and suicidal thoughts.

Steen said some signs of significant mental health issues include symptoms that won't go away, struggling to complete a daily routine and lack of motivation.

Ashton Day with the Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services Department said her organization has a team of social workers that are available to help people with any mental health concerns.

The department has resources available online at como.gov/coronavirus. People looking for support can click the "get help" link to various mental health resources and networks.

Day said many adults are experiencing "fight or flight" stress because of the pandemic and are in survival mode.

"Something interesting with adults, in particular, is that during that time of crisis they are in fight or flight mode, they are in survival mode for so long and now when things calm down is when the effects really hit them," Day said.

People experiencing mental health effects from the pandemic can access free services from MU Psychological Services, Compass Health Network and Burrell Behavioral Health.

In June the Department of Mental Health announced that the state would get $2.3 million as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Crisis Counseling Program "Show Me Hope." The $2.3 million turned into around $8.3 million when they extended the program due to the severity of the pandemic. The money has gone to staffing and mental health services for people in crisis.

The Show Me Hope Crisis counseling program provides on the spot, and over the phone, free and confidential crisis counseling for people dealing with pandemic trauma. Some services include helping people develop coping skills and providing mental health resources for counseling.

Drew Adkins the media and communications specialist for the Show Me Hope crisis counseling program said the program has served many people throughout Missouri.

"The original intent of the program was to be able to serve about 15 percent of the population and I think that's somewhere around nine-hundred twenty-thousand Missourians, I think we're pretty close if we haven't surpassed that already," Adkins said.

The crisis teams have done on-site counseling at vaccine clinics throughout the state and can be reached by calling or texting their disaster distress hotline at 1-800-985-5990.

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.

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