ARKANSAS, (KNWA/KFTA) — The CDC updated its lists of medical conditions for those who are more likely to get severely sick from COVID-19. It now includes certain mental health illnesses.
The CDC’s update allows medical professionals to prioritize those with mental health illnesses when it comes to access to care and resources to fight against COVID-19.
Here’s the breakdown; the CDC added mood disorders like depression and schizophrenia spectrum disorder to its lists of underlying conditions. This group is more likely to be hospitalized, need intensive care, need a ventilator or die from the coronavirus.
Certified Cognitive and Behavioral Therapist, Katie Wells, MS, LPC, says this group is extremely vulnerable during the health crisis and their ability to manage the impacts of COVID-19 and to seek care is not as simple as for someone in a healthy mental state.
“For example, some side effects of depression include not being able to get out of bed, loss of interest in things, potentially not being able to access some of the care or some of the things necessary to even prevent COVID-19,” said Wells.
Wells says it’s important to prioritize good mental health especially during a health crisis.
“In our normal state, we have been adjusting to anxiety, grief and loss… for the person who has a mental health issues or mental illness, this could be devastating to their current functioning even if they were relatively stable,” said Wells.
The CDC recommends those with underlying conditions to take preventive measures against COVID-19. This includes getting the vaccine, wearing a mask, social distancing and practicing hand hygiene.
By the CDC adding these mental health conditions to the list means this group is also eligible for the booster shot.
Wells says this also shines a light onto the silent heroes which are mental health professionals.
“We have kept rolling with this throughout the pandemic, this is our shared experience,” said Wells.
Now there are a few things to keep in mind to help cope during these times. A healthy lifestyle will help, that means making sure you are getting enough sleep, eating right and getting regular exercise.
It’s important to also have a strong support system.
Wells says to keep in mind that the mental health industry is experiencing extremely high demand during the pandemic, which is also causing a shortage. Her advice is to stay proactive when it comes to scheduling your one-on-ones.
“As soon as they think, oh I need to reach out and make an appointment… that is your indication to do so, because the next time you think about it, it may have progressed,” said Wells.
She says if you know someone who has a mental health issue, look out for changes in their interaction with you and to their overall behavior. If they are expressing feelings of hopelessness, not getting out of bed or have a loss of appetite these may be red flags.
Wells says if you are not able to get to a mental health professional right away, look into other resources like speaking to your medical doctor, telehealth, and support groups in your community.