As the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to rise throughout the United States and world, mental health concerns continue along a similar trajectory — an exponential rise. Mental health therapists have sought to bring awareness to the disease, especially during the month May, which is “Mental Health Awareness Month.”

In 2019, it was reported by mentalhealthfirstaid.org that 5% of adults (18 or older) experience a mental illness, totalling 43.8 million people in the United States. According to their studies on the subject, nearly 50% of adults will experience some form of mental illness during their lifetime.

Amid mandates for quarantine, the building anxiety brought on by the pandemic has some mental health professionals concerned. Brenda Erie, a licensed clinical social worker at Family Therapy in Dickinson, shared the importance of awareness with The Press.

“There’s a lot more mental health issues out there than what is being reported,” Erie said. “People are not alone and they should reach out for support. They should know that we’re here to support them.”

While in the midst of such uncertainty, experts suggest that the struggle with finding a new normal is becoming more and more difficult for a large swath of those suffering from mental health issues. Anxiety stemming from the media reporting on the virus, coupled with the effects of isolation by quarantine, is a recipe for disaster.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“We want to let people know that being worried about COVID is OK. It’s normal to feel these feelings,” Erie said. “These are very uncertain times, and it’s OK to feel some loss, for instance, loss of their “normal” life and and nothing is wrong with them and it’s OK to feel these feelings, these feelings are normal.”

Erie stated that mental therapists are encouraging numerous methods for coping, including: Talking to others, including family members, friends, neighbors, the community and even posting on social media; Staying calm and taking deep breaths; Limiting the amount of media television — watch enough to be informed, but know when it’s time to turn it off so it’s not overwhelming. Relaxing, resting and exercising also are strongly recommended. And, if needed, never be afraid to seek help from qualified specialists, such as Erie, who are willing to help those in need.

“I find a lot of joy in helping people, and there’s so much hope out there,” she said. “Nothing is hopeless; there’s always a way to get over something and I’m glad when people reach out.”

Erie also mentioned some tips for those trying to help support friends or family with mental health concerns.

“Support is a huge thing,” she said. “Giving them hope and encouragement and letting them know you’re happy they reached out and just listening to them at home. Know that is a process, be patient and just get educated about what they’re going through.”

Erie added that Family Therapy and other facilities are also doing “telehealth,” where people can have counseling sessions from the safety of their home to help those with anxiety of going into the facility or are unable to go in for a session. For more information on telehealth, contact Therapy Sessions at 702-483-1000.