Mental health officials seeing pent up surge in 'COVID fatigue'

BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) As the pandemic stretches on, regional mental health providers say they are seeing an uptick in calls for help from people who are anxious and depressed from financial strains and disrupted routines. Cat Viglienzoni explains why even as we reopen, providers say the mental health struggles are just beginning.

Several weeks back, as the pandemic was just hitting, officials at Washington County Mental Health Services said they had seen a lull in call volumes. But now, nearly two months into the pandemic, they say that's changed.

"We call it around here COVID fatigue," said Mary Moulton, the service's executive director. She says they've been hearing it all -- fear, anger, depression, anxiety. "It's COVID-related, yes."

Moulton says the coronavirus pandemic is playing out like a natural disaster. People initially rallied together to get through it, but now, as the months have worn on, they're worn out. "We're seeing that level of anxiety -- how long will this go on? And that's what's bringing people to call us," she said.

What they've found is that after months of sheltering, many people are eager to gather, but some are afraid of leaving their homes due to the virus. Moulton says they're encouraging them to get out because getting back to things that make you feel good is important for mental health. "Mental health is health and we cannot forget that," she said. "The more people go out, the more people actually do what is allowed, the better it will be for them."

We asked people in downtown Barre how they have been holding up. "Little strained, little stressed," said Anthony Cabana of Waterbury.

"It's been up and down. I've been home with two kids homeschooling and trying to get used to that. And then just barely getting back to work. So, it's been weird to not visit the people we normally visit and go to the places we normally go," said Catherine Pelletier of East Barre.

"I'm not really a person who spends a lot of time wringing their hands. My notion is -- I'm going to roll up my sleeves and get something done," said Sue Higby of Barre.

Mental health professionals say there are a few things you can do to make sure your taking care of yourself during this time. Get outside and take advantage of any loosening of restrictions. They say make sure that you create your new normal, even if it's not the same as it was before the pandemic. And if you need help, reach out for it.

Mental Health Resources:

-Click here for crisis lines around Vermont.

-National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)

-Text VT to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line - Free, 24/7 and confidential.