'Now we're isolated by design': Mental health experts discuss challenges, help during pandemic and holidays

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The pandemic has been hard, especially for those with mental health challenges. 

"This is a hard time of year for people in general for people with mental health challenges, people with PTSD, isolation and now we’re isolated by design," said Terry McGuire, a community and digital outreach specialist for Mental Health America of Wisconsin. 

According to a press release from Milwaukee County, since the onset of COVID-19, Milwaukee County experienced a 54% increase in drug overdoses and an "alarming" 300% increase in death by suicide this past August. 

Milwaukee County Supervisor Sequanna Taylor says the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors and Mental Health Board are working together to prioritize access to behavioral health services during the pandemic and as the holiday season approaches. 

"We know during the holidays, even though it’s a joyous occasion, you usually see people giving more than they ever give, happy, but we also have a group of individuals where depression sets in, whether it’s not having family, the change of seasons and then add a pandemic on top of that," Taylor said. 

"The pandemic I think increases the sense of disconnection and I think right now there’s even a little bit of dread, what are our holidays going to look like?" said Angela Martin, the clinical director at Kenosha Human Development Services. 

"Find some ways to create gratitude in your life around the Thanksgiving holiday even if you can’t spend it with the people you would normally spend it with," she said.

"What we’ve been advising people to do is to be creative in ways they can connect, maybe setting a computer up on a table and eating a meal that way," said Dr. Rae Anne Ho Fung, a clinical supervisor at Rogers Behavioral Health. 

She says they've seen an increase in patients, but says the acuity is most concerning. 

"So what I mean by that is people's depression and anxiety is much more severe," she said. 

She wants people to know there is help as the pandemic continues through the holidays and the winter. 

"Stay active, stay connected with loved ones and to seek help if you’re feeling you just can’t do alone."

People in need of help can call Milwaukee County's 24-hour crisis line at 414-257-7222. People can also call 211 for assistance. 


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