Savannah counseling practices seeing less people reach out for therapy

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- As the coronavirus death toll rises and people continue to social distance experts fear it may lead to a surge of mental illness.

A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress reported a thousand percent increase in calls compared to this time last year.

“It’s almost like you can feel that heaviness on you,” said Whitney Owens, LPC at Water’s Edge Counseling.

Eperts say if living through a pandemic is causing you emotional distress, you’re not alone. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found nearly half of all americans report the coronavirus is hurting their mental health.

“I do think the concerns are on the rise, but we are actually seeing less people reach out for therapy than we have in a really long time,,” said Owens. “That’s not only in my practice, but across the board when I talk to other practices.”

Mental health proffesionals like Owens worry the viral threat is producing collective long term trauma.

A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress reported a thousand percent increase in calls compared to this time last year.

“I encourage when you are going through traumatic experience to take that time for yourself to journal or take that time to exercise,” said Owens. “I know it’s hard to find that time, but it’s really valuable or your eventually going to get to a point where your mental health gets in the way of your work.”

Owens said the bottom line is people need help and they aren’t getting it.

While congress approved trillions of dollars in emergency funding for the COVID-19 response, only a small portion is dedicated to mental health.

“Counseling unfortunately is something we have to pay for and it’s more long term so the hope is that we can get the funding to be able to help people get counseling,” said Owens. “It would be really important at this time.”

Owens said since she’s transitioned to telehealth counseling, close to 20 percent of her clients have opted out of therapy.

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