Mental health professionals in Columbus attend to local depression issues

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Depression is on the rise nationwide and Columbus is no exception. Representatives from local mental health services reported an increase in local depression and reflected on the impact of the pandemic as well as area-specific concerns.

“We’ve seen local rates increasing just like national rates,” said Denise Wade McLeod, COO of New Horizons Behavioral Health. She explained that while local depression rates appear to be following this trend, New Horizons has not seen an increase in patients seeking treatment for depression.

She emphasized that depression is a bigger health problem because depression affects people’s functionality and well-being.

McLeod said, “I just want to point out that our mental health matters because without mental health there is no health.”

Depression rates have also worsened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Thomas Waynick, CEO of the psychiatric service Pastoral Institute. He explained that children and families were being forced into unprecedented social isolation and quarantine together, affecting sentiment.

A Post-pandemic study stated that 61 percent of young adults in America reported high levels of loneliness, with a similar statistic among mothers with young children at 51 percent. Waynick also said tensions in relationships also increased in his practice.

In addition, the population of Columbus has a minority majority. Results from Gallup Data collection 2023 found that 34.4 percent of black adults and 31.3 percent of Hispanic adults had been diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives, compared to 29 percent of white adults.

“Depression rates [are]…higher among women, among almost all minorities, including the LGBT community,” Waynick said.

He outlined how economic strains during the pandemic could help people struggling with social issues that disproportionately impact minority communities, such as Food insecurity, anxiety and depression are more common.

Less time on site during COVID also meant more time online. According to Waynick, children today suffer from depression and engage in self-harm behavior at younger ages than ever before. Part of this, he said, is due to social media, which exposes children to the “trouble of life” at a much younger age and could also leave them vulnerable to online harassment.

The CEO said his practice has seen children as young as four years old self-injure or engage in other self-injurious behaviors.

According to the American Psychological AssociationAbout 1.3% of children between the ages of 5 and 10 show self-injurious behavior, with a significant increase depending on the level of anxiety or chronic psychological stress.

He said: “In my generation, if someone bullied you, you could run home and shut the door of your house; You can actually be bullied 24/7 these days because of cellphones and computers.”

With many military members, veterans, and their families residing in Columbus due to its proximity to the newly named Fort Moore (formerly Fort Benning), Waynick says there is an additional need for mental health services.

“We have a population that has experienced the horrors of war and the trauma of war, and so some of them are going to need help processing those things,” said Waynick, who ran family counseling at Fort Moore from 2004 to 2009. after serving in Iraq in 2003.

Waynick explained he served as a chaplain for 35 years before retiring from the Army and said the loss and trauma within the military community undoubtedly led to depression.

According to McLeod, a breakup with stakes can also lead to depression. She also pointed out that treating mental illness in the military is sometimes stigmatized, which she says is reflected in society at large.

“I think everyone is at risk of depression,” McLeod said, adding that the pandemic has increased awareness of mental health issues.

She advised those experiencing symptoms such as deep sadness or disinterest in activities they typically enjoy for more than two weeks to seek professional help.

In a crisis situation, McLeod urged people to call Suicide and Crisis Lifelife at 988 or dial GCAL, the state’s crisis number for the state of Georgia.

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