Editorial: A new focus | TBR News Media

As infection rates and deaths from COVID-19 begin to decline, greater attention is needed to the effects of the pandemic on mental health.

In “Amid Drop in COVID Infections, Mental Health Concern Remains” by Daniel Dunaief featured in the Feb. 24 TBR News Media and online, Department of Health Services Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott of Suffolk County, cited two Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Studies.

Research shows that the only mental health crisis in children has worsened during the pandemic. The CDC household survey also shows that 39.2% of people aged 18 to 29 nationwide had indicators of anxiety or depression between Jan. 26 and Feb. 7 of this year. As the members of the group got older, the percentage decreased, with 9.3% of people aged 80 and over reporting mental health problems.

We have heard repeatedly throughout the pandemic that isolation and the precautions necessary to slow the rate of infection could increase anxiety and depression in people. At a press conference last week, held at the Smithtown Senior Center, elected officials discussed the importance of seniors getting back to the activities they love and spending time with family and friends, which which is vital for their general well-being.

People need interactions with others to stay healthy and to have someone to remind them that they are a good person and that the world is a better place with them. As we begin to take off our masks, it’s time to smile again and have conversations with those we encounter in our daily lives.

Naturally, getting the virus under control at the height of the pandemic was a priority. Now, it’s more important than ever to talk about mental health and stop sweeping things under the rug.

For most people, that might mean checking in with loved ones. While an in-person visit isn’t an option for some right now, a phone call or text message can make a difference.

While it was innovative and necessary to arrange doctor visits, including those with psychiatrists and therapists, on Zoom during the pandemic, it’s not the best option for everyone. Just as some students do not do well with distance learning, many people do not respond well to distance therapy.

Sometimes a person needs a one-on-one conversation, not just with someone who isn’t judging them or has no agenda, but also with a professional who can see if they’re establishing a eye contact or fidgeting or not responding well to medication. Sometimes body language must be read to see if a patient is telling the truth or just following the moves.

While a conversation with a mental health professional is always a wise thing to do – whether in person or online – sometimes for the real work to be done it needs to be one-on-one in a office. So, if you need it, don’t hesitate to request a visit to the office. Most therapists are starting to offer them again.

During the pandemic, people have learned new ways to do things to stay healthy, and some of those ways may be better. But meeting a friend and talking while eating or drinking coffee, or sitting on the couch in a therapist’s office – a real connection – that can’t be beat.