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Support available amid tough year

W e all know that 2020 has been an especially difficult year for most of us, and this has now been reflected by a recent study.

Half of U.S. adults surveyed reported at least some signs of depression, such as hopelessness, feeling like a failure or getting little pleasure from doing things. That’s double the rate from a different survey two years ago, Boston University researchers said Wednesday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, which was reported in an Associated Press article.

The study did not ask about any diagnosis they might have received, and for many people, the problem is mostly angst rather than full-blown psychiatric illness. But experts say the feeling is genuine and deserving of professional help.

For some people, it stems from lost loved ones and the financial distress and social isolation the outbreak has caused. Experts say Americans are also feeling anxiety over the racial and political upheaval of the past few months, though the BU study was conducted before the recent tumult.

“There is no question that many people in the U.S. and worldwide are experiencing real and often distressing emotional reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in some cases, to contracting the virus,” said psychiatrist Dr. Ronald Pies, a retired professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University.

At Cityscape Counseling in Chicago, the new client caseload jumped from 95 to 148 over the past two months, said executive director Chelsea Hudson. The group’s 17 therapists see about 500 clients a week, and Hudson said she has hired two more therapists to deal with the increased demand.

“We see a lot of single young professionals. I think it’s been especially tough on them. The isolation, lack of connection, often enhances depression,” she said.

During these times, it’s important to check in on friends and family, especially those who live alone. Small things can go a long way. Give them a call or do a video chat; ask if they want to go for a walk and have a chat; or drop off a nice meal at their place to show them you care.

We know that life can be tough even when we aren’t in the midst of a pandemic. The Journal would like to remind readers that you are not alone, and there is help available to those who need it. If you or someone you know needs help, check out mentalhealth.gov or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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