PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – Mental health professionals in Arizona say they’re seeing more patients seeking help for depression and burnout amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And they even more patients to be booking appointments in the next few months.
“There’s probably going to be a huge influx in just providers across the board, whether they’re private practice or community health clinics,” said Dr. John Deletorre, a psychologist and chair of the Disaster Resource Network Committee with the Arizona Psychology Association (AzPA). “They’ve been putting off all their appointments because how do they work but then take care of the kids? How do they juggle all of the different expectations that are assigned to them? I think there has been an idea that because you’re not capable of juggling all of these things, something has to give, and I think people have been giving on their own emotional issues.”
Dr. Deletorre said that when the pandemic and shutdowns first began, there was a surge in patients seeking therapy and then it leveled out. He believes that’s because most appointments are now virtual and not everyone is comfortable with telepsychology.
“It is an intrusion into a person’s life; a lot of ancillary things — the kids, the dogs, the sounds of the neighborhood — bleed into what is supposed to be a private issue,” Dr. Deletorre explained. “It’s important for everyone to understand that telepsychology is not a new thing. It’s been going on for decades.”
Kati Morton, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, has been experiencing the same difficulties with virtual appointments. “It’s hard to find privacy. I live with my husband in 1,000 square feet. If I really was having a tough time with him, it would be hard for me to talk to my therapist about that without him overhearing,” Morton said. “We’ve been doing a lot of car therapy, a lot of park therapy. Wherever you have to go to make it happen, make it happen. But it might be a little uncomfortable.”
Morton says she’s seeing more patients than usual who are experiencing symptoms of burnout or depression — or both. “A lot of the symptoms of depression and burnout actually overlap. However the biggest difference is when it comes to burnout, it’s more stress-related, meaning we know the triggers: it’s work, it’s school, it’s home life. It’s all of those things potentially,” Morton explained. “With depression, we don’t always know. If any of you out there struggle with depression, you know it can come on unexpectedly and it can hang around. We don’t always have a reason behind it.”
Morton says if anyone is feeling irritable, overly tired but can’t sleep, sleeping too much, or has a change in appetite, seek help so you can find ways to tackle it. “The sooner we reach out and the sooner we speak up, the sooner we’ll start feeling as back to normal as we can,” Morton said.
Both Morton and Dr. Deletorre say they’re worried about the long-term effects of 2020 and urge people to stop putting their health on hold. “A lot of the decision making people are doing right now is solely based on emotional distress without a proper release. Once we’re able to feel comfortable out in the world again, people will probably seek out help for what I’m calling a ‘post pandemic stress disorder,'” Dr. Deletorre said.
“I’m very concerned about the long-term ramifications or sort of ripple effect of this pandemic because we already know that suicide rates are up, anxiety and depression rates are up, and so I know a lot of people are suffering in silence right now,” Morton said.