Borderland residents at risk for adverse mental health effects from COVID-19, says CDC

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The summer has seen an increase in troubling mental health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic that the CDC and local psychiatrists say El Pasoans should be privy to.

On Thursday, the CDC released a new study that reports 40 percent of U.S. adults struggled with mental health disturbances and substance abuse last month. 

The CDC says symptoms of anxiety were about three times greater this year compared to the same period last year, and that symptoms of depression were approximately four times greater than in 2019. 

According to the study, many of the populations who reported considerably elevated adverse mental health symptoms are reflective of El Paso’s demographics: young people, racial and ethnic minorities, essential workers and unpaid adult caregivers. 

“At one point, people start using because that’s the only way they can feel normal, and that’s a very painful way to have to use something to not be depressed,” Dr. Fabrizzio Delgado, a psychiatrist at the clinics of Texas Tech Physicians in El Paso, told KTSM 9 News. 

Delgado emphasized that alcohol is a depressant and works by depressing the central nervous symptoms, thereby exacerbating existing symptoms of depression. 

The CDC says Hispanic respondents who participated in the study reported higher instances of anxiety and depression symptoms, COVID-19-related trauma and stress-related symptoms, increased substance use and suicidal ideation compared to non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic Asian respondents.

Black respondents who participated reported increased substance use and considerably more suicidal considerations over a period of the past 30 days more often than white and Asian respondents. 

Additionally, the study found that unpaid caregivers of adults who are providing critical aid to the infirm at home are at significantly higher odds of experiencing adverse mental health responses than others who took the survey. 

Longstanding health and social inequities have contributed to elevated risks for infection, severe illness and death from COVID-19 in populations of color, according to the CDC. Hotspots for COVID-19 have changed since the virus arrived in the U.S., but the CDC reports that from March to July, 80 percent of the U.S. population met the criteria for living in a COVID-19 hotspot. 

El Paso is among the hotspots and has been recognized by the CDC for having 29 to 35 consecutive days of hotspot spread of COVID-19. 

The CDC’s research suggest that a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 cases among racial and ethnic minorities occurred during February and June, and has also exacerbated symptoms of anxiety, depression and substance abuse. 

To reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Avoid crowds 
  • Wear a mask in public 
  • Stay six feet from others 
  • Wash hands frequently 

To cope with stress from the pandemic, the CDC suggests:

  • Having a plan to know what to do if you become ill
  • Research where and how to obtain treatment, support services and resources like counseling and mental health providers 
  • Manage your emotional health by practicing self-care
  • Take breaks from watching, reading or listening to news stories and social media updates 
  • Take care of your body 
    • Stretch
    • Exercise
    • Eat well
    • Get plenty of sleep
    • Avoid excessive drug and alcohol use 
  • Connect with close ones

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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