The pandemic’s mental health toll


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – For many people, the stress of the pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health, leading to anxiety and depression for some. But it’s also allowed a few people to slow down and take a break.

Thomas Otten with Avera Behavioral Health says the summer of 2020 brought an increase in people seeking help with their mental health.

“Some of that which was just pent up demand, probably but some of it, certainly, the effects of COVID and really since that time, it’s been extremely busy, usually the summer would be our slow time, we had our busiest summer on record in 2020,” Otten said. “In 2021, we had a significantly busier yet summer so we’ve been very full over the course of the last twelve months or so.”

COVID-19 brought with it many questions and few answers, leading to more and more stress.

“Nobody really knew what was going on so guidelines weren’t very specific,” Karla Salem, integrated health therapist with Sanford Health said. “And so, there was a little bit of pandemonium, I think, in people’s minds. And then, you know, as things got more routine, they got more routine, but they were still kind of at a crisis point. You know, there were people who were very ill, people whose family couldn’t come visit and so that then became a little bit more of a depressive kind of time, fatigued, just tired.”

However, those challenges also put a spotlight on mental health, allowing people to slow down.

“We live in a society that is very much go, go go, and we all had to kind of sit back a minute and just adjust, what is it that I’m going to do,” Salem said. “I think now is the time, or whenever you decide, to reevaluate what you liked about that and what you didn’t like about that. You know, did you like ordering your groceries online.”

“With mental health concerns rising, it’s becoming more and more normal which is really, really important for us to reduce the stigma around behavioral health and mental health diseases,” Otten said.

To learn ways of coping with stress, click here for tips from the CDC.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or having suicidal thoughts, you can call the suicide prevention lifeline at 800-273-8255. You can also call the South Dakota Helpline Center at 211.

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