Therapist says COVID-19 pandemic has taken terrible toll on people's mental health

2020 was obviously challenging for just about everyone, but COVID-19 has really taken a toll on people struggling with mental health.

During the ongoing and worsening COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness, depression and substance abuse are all on the rise. Therapists in the Valley say their client count went up soon as the lockdowns began, and as the months have gone on, it has only continued.

"We have seen things picking up a lot," said therapist Christina Orellana with the Scottsdale Recovery Center. "People have been struggling with isolation, and that is contributing to an escalation in drinking, drug use."

According to Mental Health America, the number of people reporting anxiety and depression nationwide since the start of the pandemic hit an all-time high in September, and Orellana says this is becoming evident.

"We are seeing a rise in overdose deaths due to the rise in substance use," said Orellana.

This comes as the country is dealing with social unrest. In addition, the pandemic has created environments of isolation.

"There is a lack of accountability. People aren't going into an office, and they don't have to physically be present for events. It allows for the sneaky part of this disease to flourish.," said Orellana.

Orellana says these substance abuse issues may have started during the pandemic, or for some, the pandemic contributed to a problem that was already there.

There is, however, some good news, as Mental Health America reported an increase in people seeking help in 2020, showing many are taking the proper steps to combat these issues.

"It is so important to reach out," said Orellana. "It is the hardest thing you can do when you are stuck in the depths of this disease, and anxiety depression and other disorders, but once you do that is when the freedom starts."

Orellana says throughout this pandemic, the stigmas of depression, addiction and others have been talked about more.

CDC advice on coping with stress during COVID-19 pandemic

Tune in to FOX 10 Phoenix for the latest news

Download FOX 10 apps for local breaking news and weather

Sign up for FOX 10 email alerts, newsletters