Anxiety, depression among North Carolinians has ‘tripled’ during pandemic, health leaders say

Anxiety, depression among North Carolinians has ‘tripled’ during pandemic, health leaders say
Victor Armstrong, director of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services (Source: WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Anxiety and depression are increasing sharply among North Carolinians as the coronavirus pandemic continues, tripling from previous numbers, according to state health leaders.

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen hoped to reach those struggling with symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression and substance abuse during a press conference Thursday by saying “help is available.”

Cohen says the evidence showing “sharply increased rates” of anxiety is concerning. “This pandemic has taken a toll on all of us,” Cohen said, acknowledging those who have been infected with the virus, healthcare workers and those who are feeling isolated.

The concern over the mental health of many North Carolinians comes as the state is reporting record numbers related to virus deaths and hospitalizations.

North Carolina health leaders are also seeing high rates of binge drinking and overdoses. “If you have started or continued to use substances in an unhealthy way, there is help available, “Cohen said.

Victor Armstrong, director of the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Substance Abuse Services, says leaders must enhance outreach efforts to marginalized communities.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, symptoms of depression and anxiety have tripled,” said Armstrong, who is working with the state to increase access to mental healthcare. “We have also seen a 15-percent increase in emergency department visits visits of opioid overdose.”

Armstrong recommended an acronym, “SCOOP,” to keep at top of mind. Stay connected to family, have Compassion for yourself, Observe your use of substances, know it’s OK to ask for help, and consider Physical activity to improve mood.

“Asking for help is empowering,” Armstrong said.

A “Hope for Healers” counseling line has been set up for those working the front lines of the pandemic: 919-226-2002.

Armstrong recommended those who need help should call crisis counseling at 1-855-587-3463.

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