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Feelings of anxiety and depression have reached unprecedented levels

Data indicates a 300% increase in anxiety and depression that is expected to continue rising as the holiday season approaches. Sponsored by Premera Blue Cross.

SEATTLE — It is not engaging in hyperbole to say 2020 has been a year full of unprecedented hardships for everyone -- both in terms of quality and quantity. Faced with a seemingly unending barrage of problems, any one of which could create mental health challenges, experts in the field report increases in anxiety and depression to match the ongoing crises.

“It's been a time of incredible stressors,” said Dr. David Johnson, a member of the MultiCare Behavioral Health Foundation Board of Directors at Navos, an organization focused on serving children, young adults, and other at-risk patients.

“When you think of all the different things that are happening to cause people's stress; there's the pandemic itself, there's the fear of catching the pandemic, there are people who are suffering the aftermath from having had the virus,” he said. "There are people who have lost their jobs, people who are homeless, facing eviction, having food insecurity. People working from home and having to supervise children who are learning from home. So, it's a time of immense stress.”

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Data indicate a 300 percent increase in anxiety and depression, as well as a 30 percent increase in the number of people relapsing into substance use disorders. Suicidality is also on the rise, and the mental health infrastructure is being taxed like at no other time in memory.

“I've worked in community behavioral health in King County and the Seattle area for 46 years, and this is the most challenging time I've ever witnessed,” Dr. Johnson said. “Over half of us have one time or another in life think ‘I just don't know if I want to keep going,’ but it's very different when people cross that line into really feeling that the world would be better without them, and that the anxiety and depression and challenges are overwhelming. It is a time of great danger that way.”

As the calendar continues turning the page, the holiday season is quickly approaching, with some already underway such as Yom Kippur. Normally a joyous time, this year augers a tough slog for many who will be unable to gather with family and friends.

“This year, the holidays are land-mine filled,” Dr. Johnson said. “The holidays are supposed to be a time of intimacy, of celebration, of being with others. The holidays are supposed to be a time of bounty and generosity and gifts. And instead, these holidays from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day are going to be fraught with causes for profound disappointment.”

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Organizations like Navos have treatment available. In times of desperation and hopelessness, know that there are people out there willing and able to help you navigate these difficult times.

“For people who have a clinical depression we have lots of treatment that can help,” Dr. Johnson said, “We're actually trained in ways to counter our depression. Oftentimes medication is very helpful for that. So know that if you're anxious or you're depressed to the point where you need help, there are places to get help for everybody.

“Resilience happens. Recovery happens.”

For more information, visit the Navos website. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call their hotline 206-248-8226.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - TTY: 800-799-4889 or Live Online Chat.

The Way Forward: Mental Health and Well Being is sponsored by Premera Blue Cross. Segment Producer Joseph Suttner. Watch New Day Northwest 11 AM weekdays on KING 5 and streaming live on KING5.com. Contact New Day.