ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — May is “Mental Health Awareness Month.”
Nearly 1 in 10 Americans experience depression. That number is even higher among adolescents, especially after their younger years were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the uncertainty and loneliness of the pandemic, one provider saw more people seeing out help and engaging in treatment. While the COVID-19 Health Emergency ended last week, the lasting impacts are still there.
“It’s just like any other diagnosis, right? So, I think that if people really start to think about it in that way, we might make a lot of progress,” said Susan Mueller, CEO of Relief Mental Health.
There was a major increase in adults reporting symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the pandemic hit and people really didn’t have a lot of options, they needed something to get them over the hump,” Mueller said.
Some people turned to therapy to cope, while others turned to alcohol and drugs. Despite life returning back to normal, the mental health impact does not just go away.
“There are a lot of people that are afraid of reaching out for help because of maybe the way they were raised, or maybe their age group, or maybe they’re just trying to muscle through it,” Mueller said. “But, as people are engaging in conversation and people are talking about mental health, it’s becoming something that’s a lot more accepted.”
It can be a tough conversation to have, but others could be feeling the same way.
“I always tell people to talk to their friends and family first, talk to them about maybe what they’ve done,” Mueller said. “You might be surprised that your friend or your family member has gone out and sought help and care.”
Even the smallest changes to a person’s daily routine can make a difference.
“A lot of people start by, maybe they do a little thing. They go to the gym or, you know, they go for a walk,” Mueller said. “There’s nothing wrong with doing exercise for your brain and making sure your brain health is intact, because it’s the most important muscle in your body.”
There are a wide variety of mental health treatment options, from professional help to taking time for oneself and other small changes that they can do on their own.