Experts fear pandemic could have lasting impacts on mental health

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but it’s taken on added significance this year as many people struggle with anxiety, depression and isolation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

From job losses to lonely days cut off from family and friends, medical professionals fear there will be lasting impacts on the mental health of thousands of people.

“We know the main physical concerns are taking a toll right now, but we’re expecting it’s going to be more difficult in terms of people’s mental health just because of the strain we’ve all experienced,” said Dr. Robert Althoff, medical director of psychiatry at CVPH.

Laurie Emerson, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Vermont said one group that’s already feeling the impact is health care workers on the front lines.

“With front line workers, there is compassion fatigue,” she said. “The work that they’re doing is ongoing, its endless. They’re really struggling.”

To help peoplke navigate the crisis, Althoff has created a series of YouTube videos on coping strategies, such as how to better communicate with others. The videos have also been used at UVM Medical Center and Alice Hyde.

“To provide something to support the staff and to some degree the community,” he said. “To name some of the things that are happening to us and let everybody know we’re in it together.”

Emerson agrees that ‘it’s okay to not be okay’ right now and encourages people to stay connected with one another, get some exercise, and to carve out time for yourself.

“Just to keep that routine in your life will really help you to be resilient,” she said.

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