August 18, 2020

increasing depression and anxiety

I am seeing more and more patients struggling with anxiety and worries. Definitely worries about the pandemic, but also worries about losing jobs and health insurance. For some, like my HIV patients, that can be life threatening if they can’t afford the medications that keep the HIV virus suppressed. Many miss their families and friends, feel isolated and lonely. Their routines of exercise and eating are thrown off. They worry about politics and which way the country is headed. They may be estranged from family due to politics. Optimism and hope dim. Overall, Seattle has been spared compared to the rest of the country. We have a low level of infections circulating and multiple tech companies that allow many people to work from home, but people are still hurting. I can only imagine the pain in other parts of the country.

US News has an article about the increase in anxiety and depression in the US. I have patients who are essential workers- doctors, nurses, bus drivers, butchers, grocery store workers, nannies, day care workers, and others. Their anxiety has all increased. This is fueled by such things as hostile and angry customers who won’t mask up, employers exploiting the workers, fear they will be the one to bring the virus home and infect a vulnerable loved one. The CDC has a report about the increase risk of depression and suicidal thoughts, along with an increase in alcohol use and other substances. This will only grow as we wait for the vaccine and treatments. I suggest we all need to think about resources available and ideas to help our friends and family, or even ourselves.

Here in Seattle, our excellent King County Public Health Department has lists of resources and links to find help on their website. Other health departments will have resources too. It is worth checking out in your area.

I find I can really help someone when I educate them about their risks and how to stay safe. I can offer up the local resources and also show them ‘COVID Coach’, my favorite free app from the VA which helps with anxiety, sleep, resources, and more. I highly recommend it. The link is below. Did I mention it is free? Or at least paid for by your tax dollars, which have been put to amazingly good use. This article in ‘Clinical Advisor” has tips and recommendations that can also help. This hopeful article in Reasons to Be Cheerful shows that sometimes shifting your attitude can help to view the situation as opportunity. This can be life altering and help you find meaning in this world.

It can feel pretty dark right now, especially if you feel lonely and estranged from friends and family because of politics or social isolation. Jill Biden said something tonight in her speech at the Democratic National Convention that I found profound. “How do you make a broken family whole?” she asked. “The same way you make a nation whole: with love and understanding and with small acts of kindness.”

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six outdoors, and make your family and “nation whole: with love and understanding and with small acts of kindness”.