World Mental Health Day brings awareness to mental illness

Mental health in the age of COVID-19

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Saturday is World Mental Health Day and experts say millions of Americans suffer from depression and anxiety under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has magnified the problem.

They say one of the keys to dealing with mental illness is talking about it.

“Depression and anxiety rates have pretty much skyrocketed during the pandemic. Estimates are about three times the rate as compared to the same time last year,” said UAB Psychologist, Dr. Joshua Klapow.

He said that’s no surprise given the amount of stress, uncertainty and disruption the Coronavirus pandemic has caused.

But as much progress as we’ve made with reducing the stigma attached to mental illness, Dr. Klapow said there’s much more work to be done.

“We know from research that having something like depression or anxiety disorders are as debilitating as having hypertension, diabetes, COPD,” Dr. Klapow said.

“But unlike something like diabetes or hypertension, they don’t want to talk about it, so it becomes more of a taboo subject,” Dr. Klapow explained.

Dr. Klapow added that the more people willing to talk about their own struggles with mental health, the more it will be normalized.

In fact, he said many conditions can be treated without medication.

So, there is no shame in asking for help when you’re not feeling like yourself.

“Let someone know that you are not feeling right because if you keep it to yourself, A…no one can help you. B…the condition can’t be treated, and C…very often…and this is important, the condition doesn’t just go away on its own,” Dr. Klapow said.

Dr. Klapow encourages friends and family to check in with loved ones regularly, approaching them with care and compassion…not accusations.

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