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Mental health was already in crisis mode across the U.S., advocates say, but since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's worsened.

Police and mental health professionals have been busy throughout the pandemic.

Police in Schenectady continue to meet with mental health professionals from Northern Rivers Family of Services when certain emergency calls warrant that type of response.

And at Capital Region TMS, a depression treatment facility on Union Street in Schenectady, director of clinical services Mary Ruhle said she's out straight with patient appointments, and Ruhle is logging 60-plus hour work weeks.

Her colleague, Dr. Thomas Qualtere, said the pandemic has broadened feelings of isolation, stress and even the mourning of loved ones who died of the coronavirus.

Qualtere said the mental health crisis doesn't get the attention it deserves. He suggested it should be approached with the same urgency as the nation's response to the opioid crisis.

"It's unfortunate. It's not spoken about enough. You have to deal with the negative stigma of mental health, and people are reluctant to come and get treatment in the first place," he said.

"And now, with COVID, they're isolated, secondly. Third, the idea of having to be on medication or be in treatment and having to acknowledge it — it can put you behind the eight-ball. Between the economy, the lethality of COVID, people having all these losses and being isolated... it takes a toll," Qualtere said.

Before the pandemic, it was widely believed one in five U.S. adults struggled with mental health issues, according to Glen Liebman, chief executive officer of the Mental Health Association of New York State.

In the state in May 2020, more than a third of adult New Yorkers reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression in the prior week, according to the New York State Health Foundation.

The New York study indicates three times more people reported anxiety and depression after the pandemic.


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