MILWAUKEE - There is more concerning data about the long-term effects of the coronavirus. Researchers from Oxford in England have discovered that people infected with the virus are also at risk of developing a psychiatric disorder.
"There has never been this level of threat that I am aware in my career," said Dr. Byron Bloemer, a psychologist.
A study published earlier this month shows one in five people diagnosed with COVID-19 are also diagnosed with a mental illness within 90 days.
"It just escalates their anxiety, escalates the functioning of the nervous system," Dr. Bloemer said.
Dr. Byron Bloemer
Bloemer, the proprietor of Cedar Creek Counseling and Cedar Lake Counseling in Mequon, said his therapists are seeing these symptoms firsthand among patients.
"Low energy, fears of death," Bloemer said. "Panic attacks, heart is racing, social anxiety."
The alarming trend comes as Americans, especially young adults, are already reporting a major increase in stress, depression, and fear related to uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. Bloemer said as a result, business is up 300% compared to 2019. His office is stretched to capacity.
"We’re getting 15-20 new calls a day. And all of our therapists are full," Dr. Bloemer said.
"We’ve surged a number of different hotlines and warmlines and peer support lines," said Andrea Palm, DHS Secretary-Designee.
Just like in the emergency room, Bloemer said the longer patients in psychological distress have to wait, the more dire their situation becomes.
"The rate of alcoholism and drug abuse is going up again. Suicide without drugs, going up also," Bloemer said. "And some of them just wouldn’t be able to tolerate the wait."
Dr. Bloemer said his clinics are looking to hire additional therapists to meet the growing need. In the meantime, patients will be prioritized based on urgency.
Lastly, for those struggling with mental illness, Dr. Bloemer encourages them to seek therapy and to keep the following advice in mind: "Remember, things are all temporary. Remember that if you stay in this moment… that makes it a little bit more manageable. And then stay in touch with people they can talk with."