TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) – Florida is facing a mental health storm as a result of the pandemic.
The Florida Children and Youth Cabinet was told Wednesday the pandemic has also changed how people are receiving mental health treatment.
This time last year, census data showed one in seven people reporting anxiety or depression. The number has mushroomed to 25 percent in the pandemic.
“A concerning national increase,” said Dr. Thomas Joiner. Joiner runs the university counseling center at Florida State.
Fueling the anxiety are isolation and social distancing. Another factor is that there are more than a million new people on the state’s welfare rolls.
Florida State University has responded by ramping up tele-health sessions.
“Their suicide risks from January [to] February went down from March to April. We attribute it to on going engagement via tele-health,” said Joiner.
Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis, who chairs the Cabinet, has been championing children’s mental health following Hurricane Michael.
She said the number one question she gets from parents is how to identify mental health issues. In order to help spot those with anxiety or depression, Florida State has begun training every faculty and staff member to spot changes in behavior.
“From the entire campus, people who don’t specialize in mental health, how to be on the lookout for students who might be in crisis; what are some of the signs and symptoms for them,” said Joiner.
And experts say when the pandemic ends, the explosion in tele-health will remain.