Coping with the pandemic: Lubbockites talk mental health

Sep 3, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten people’s physical health. But it’s affecting mental health, too.

“At first working from home was awesome,” said Lubbock local, Daniel Ballard.

He is a video producer at Texas Tech Public Media. He counts himself lucky. He’s been able to edit videos from home since March, while his kids do virtual learning and rough house in their free-time.
 

He’s thankful they get along well. It’s helped them cope with not seeing their friends for six-months. The family of four rarely leaves their home, and if they do it’s for a quick grocery run. Ballard says isolation started to take its toll.

“I didn’t notice it at first, but about a month in, I realized I haven’t seen anyone in a really long time,” he said. Ballard has dealt with depression and anxiety for several years, but this caught him off guard. “The isolation kicked in and it’s a lot,” he said.

While Ballard may be secluded from the rest of the world, he’s not alone in his feelings. According to a recent study by the American Medical Association, nearly a quarter of people in the U.S. are experiencing symptoms of depression.

In Lubbock, Texas Tech’s student counseling center has seen an uptick in students seeking services for anxiety and depression. And Lubbock’s Family Counseling Services has seen a similar trend. “We’re in the midst of something. We go on living like we’re in normal times and we’re not,” said Family Counseling Services Executive Director, Bryan Moffitt.

“It’s affecting people a lot more than they believe it is on a mental health side.”

In the past eight months alone, they’ve seen 825 clients—in a typical year, it’s around a thousand. At this rate, he predicts this year will be the highest volume they’ve seen in their 65-year history. This is largely due to the stress the pandemic has caused.

Michelle Guerra struggles with chronic depression. But it’s felt different these last six months. “I know what it feels like to be depressed,” she said, “but this feeling it was weird.”

Then she found the word that described it…

“My friend posted this article that said, what you’re feeling is grief and I was like, that’s what it is” She realized she’s grieving her “used-to-be-normal life.”

She’s dealt firsthand with the difficulty of getting help for depression. It was shortly after college when her student benefits ended.

“I remember shaking crying when I called therapists in the area, and them telling me I needed to get a referral from my PCP.” She thinks on the mental health front, Lubbock can do better.

According to a report released by the Lubbock Area United Way, Lubbock has 6.9 psychiatrists per 100,000 residents—That’s approximately half the national average. It also shows a significant lack of local treatment centers for mental health issues.

“Access is always our main focus,” Moffitt said. “Making sure that you have access to services regardless of insurance and regardless of money.”

For people struggling with mental health, it’s important to find coping mechanisms, like Guerra has. She’s recently taken up pole dancing for exercise. “I’ve grown to love it,” she said. The physical outlet helps her cope with the anxiety she experiences.

Ballard has found his own creative ways of coping by getting more involved with Lubbock Community Theatre. Over the months he’s joined their board, helped with a podcast and even written for their virtual play, “Livish.”

Moffitt believes that this is a very strange time and people who have it together at this time are liars. “They’re really good at lying.”

If you or someone you know are struggling with depression or anxiety, you can find resources listed out on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, or if you live near Lubbock, visit www.fcslubbock.org.

Got a tip? Email Kaysie Ellingson at Kaysie.ellingson@ttu.edu. Follow her reporting on Twitter @KaysieEllingson. If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support local non-profit journalism. Thanks for donating today.