RICHMOND, Va. – Less than a week after Governor Northam announced that restrictions would soon be lifted and the warrant for the mask lifted, a Richmond psychiatrist believed the struggles for mental health would continue.
“Change is difficult. Even when it comes to a change to something better,” said psychiatrist Dr. Walter Stanley Jennings, of Tucker Psychiatric.
Dr. Jennings said even positive changes like reopening companies, lifting mask mandates and ending closures can affect people’s mental health.
“Even though it doesn’t make any sense. I’m telling you, that’s right,” Dr. Jennings said.
He said there could be several factors at stake, such as the guilt of the survivors for some or the unresolved pain.
“A lot of people have lost loved ones, and that lasts,” Dr. Jennings said.
He said temporary sadness was normal and added that going out and doing things could improve mental health.
“If it doesn’t go away, within a reasonable period of time, it’s not normal,” Dr. Jennings said. “It’s important to say it and understand it because I know there are ways to fix it.”
Dr. Jennings said people who experience long-term sadness should seek help.
From August 2020 to February 2021, a CDC survey found that the percentage of adults who reported recent symptoms of anxiety and depression increased from 36.4% to 41.5%. The increases were greatest among young adults aged 18 to 29 years.
Joseph Williams knows what it’s like to live with a debilitating mental health disorder.
“I don’t like to say that, but it’s that it’s a disease you just don’t overcome,” Williams said. “It’s a process and can be relapsed at any time.”
Chester’s husband and father of two were diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in 2008 and have since received medication and treatment at Tucker Psychiatric to control their symptoms.
“About six months before I was admitted to the hospital, I don’t remember,” Williams said. “I missed work. When I went to work, I would sit down and say I would cry.”
Williams said treatments he later received at Tucker Psychiatric, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation along with medications, have been effective in treating his depression.
He said being busy was also helpful.
“Going out, working in the yard or going somewhere or going home to see my family; that’s what helps me the most, it’s just being busy,” Williams said.
But Williams said his symptoms worsened when COVID-19 began to spread around the world.
“That’s all I heard every day you come on TV – people were dying for this C COVID. And you’re worried that you can get it yourself,” Williams said. “And then it’s worrying, along with my depression already. Yeah, it made me fall.”
Williams said he had to increase treatments with Tucker Psychiatric up to once a week to control symptoms. But he added that he was doing better now that COVID cases had fallen and companies were reopening.
“My depression is better now. I don’t think about it that much.”
But Williams firmly believed that he would not be where he was today if he had not sought help. He encouraged others to go through something similar, to do the same.
“Don’t wait to seek help. Don’t be ashamed of your illness or illness. Get out. Talk to someone, look for someone, look for a doctor who understands you and can help you,” Williams said.