Mental Health Providers See “Unprecedented” Surge During Pandemic

At one Chicago-based clinic, referrals to their counseling program have increased 75%.

As the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic fills hospitals to capacity, mental health providers are seeing a surge of their own.

“People are under so much stress,” said Ryoko Chernomaz, a licensed clinical social worker at the San Francisco Free Clinic.

Issues at home – from increasing childcare responsibilities to domestic abuse – are compounding financial anxieties triggered during the early stages of the pandemic, driving an uptick in mental health needs. Sine the pandemic began, Chernomaz has seen a 30% increase in appointments.

At CommunityHealth – a free clinic based in Chicago – licensed clinical social worker Ornella Razetto has observed a similar trend. “It began with anxiety, depressive symptoms and financial insecurity,” said Razetto, but now, “reality has sunk in.” As the pandemic drags on, many of her patients’ initial anxieties are manifesting into chronic depression. Razetto has seen a 75% increase in referrals since March.

On this episode of the podcast, we speak with both Chernomaz and Razetto about how the pandemic is affecting their patients’ mental health and what they expect the long-term consequences to be.

Direct Relief regularly supports safety-net clinics, like CommunityHealth, with mental health medications and funding to expand mental wellness programs. Since January, Direct Relief has sent nearly 600 shipments of critical supplies, including mental health medications, to 71 clinics and health centers across the United States through the organization’s monthly Replenishment Program.