Continued crisis is spiking stress and anxiety across America

Rev 6:6 NAS And I heard something like a voice in the center of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not damage the oil and the wine.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Joe Biden’s America: Anxiety Spikes as Americans Report High Levels of Stress Due to Rising Prices
  • Americans are experiencing a spike in anxiety due to rising prices, supply chain issues, and global uncertainty, the American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” poll revealed.
  • The survey found a whopping 87 percent of Americans identifying “rise in prices of every day items due to inflation (e.g. gas prices, energy bills, grocery costs)” as a significant source of stress.
  • 87 percent said that it “feels like there has been a constant stream of crises without a break over the last two years,” and 73 percent say they are “overwhelmed by the number of crises facing he world right now.” Further, 69 percent are worried the Russian invasion of Ukraine will lead to nuclear war, and the same percentage fear these are the beginning stages of a WWIII.

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Murder rates surge while American’s stress over pandemic

Mark 13:12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.”

Important Takeaways:

  • ‘Stress, Anxiety, Lot of Anger:’ Pandemic and Other Factors Fueling America’s Surging Murder Rate
  • Experts say the spike in homicides began at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • “Pent up stress, anxiety, a lot of anger. People started losing their jobs. People are drinking more,” Criminologist Dr. Alex Piquero
  • “All of these things put together have occurred in every city in the United States,” said Piquero.
  • In 2021, Chicago, a city long plagued by deadly gun violence, saw its deadliest year in 25 years with 797 murders.
  • Los Angeles counted nearly 400 deaths in 2021 and 134 in Oakland. Both California municipalities’ murder rates reached 15-year highs.
  • Austin, Texas, recorded an unprecedented number of murders last year.

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Together again: Elderly New Yorkers rejoice as senior centers reopen

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – After more than a year of pandemic-forced separation, 85-year old Justo Fleitas was back at the pool table at his neighborhood’s senior center, finally reunited with a small group of friends and his cue stick.

“It’s beautiful, no words to say how I feel,” said Fleitas, an avid pool player and a regular at the Star Senior Center in Manhattan.

On Monday this week, senior centers in New York City welcomed back the city’s elderly for indoor activities after being closed for more than a year.

Fleitas, who left Cuba for the United States in his 20’s, worked as a barber until he retired more than 20 years ago. After being confined at home with his wife during the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged New York, he said he has been eagerly waiting for the center to reopen.

He was far from alone in that pent up anticipation.

“Before we opened, seniors were already calling, asking for us to reopen,” said Maggie Hernandez, a program coordinator at Star Senior Center. “They were preparing themselves for weeks for this to happen.”

Centers such as the one in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan are a lifeline for many senior citizens who rely on them for food, companionship and recreation.

When the pandemic shut them down last spring, along with most other activities, some older New Yorkers, at particularly high risk for severe COVID-19, were forced to hunker down at home, often alone.

Staff at Star Senior Center made some 35,000 wellness calls to its seniors who reported suffering from isolation, anxiety and depression, Hernandez said.

‘MISSED HERE SO MUCH’

On the first day of reopening, the center was bustling at lunch hour. Gaggles of seniors gathered around the large tables spread out around the room, filling the place with animated conversations for the first time in more than a year.

Helen Anderson started frequenting the Star Senior Center a few years ago, attracted by its diversity. When the pandemic hit, Anderson said she “tried to survive” by speaking on the phone with the center’s staff.

“Oh my goodness, I missed here so much,” said Anderson, 72, as she tucked a face covering under her glasses to keep it from sliding down.

Anderson, who lives alone, said she started seeing her daughter in person during the Christmas holidays late last year, although she did not allow her inside the apartment for fear of getting sick.

The retired nurse said she religiously watched New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daily news conferences hoping for an announcement about the reopening of senior centers.

On June 1, de Blasio said senior centers could resume outdoor activities and indoor gatherings would resume on June 14.

“Seniors bore the brunt of the COVID crisis, they were the most vulnerable,” the mayor said at the time of the announcement.

New Yorkers 75 and older were hospitalized for COVID-19 at rates four times higher than the rest of the population and died at seven times the rate of the rest of the residents, city health data shows https://www1.nyc.gov/site/doh/covid/covid-19-data-totals.page#summary.

About 128 of the 250 senior centers in the Department for the Aging’s (DFTA) network were reopening as of late Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the department.

Some centers were still wrestling with the logistics of how to safely resume operations as they are open to both vaccinated and unvaccinated seniors.

“Senior centers are notoriously small places,” said Abbie LeWarn, the assistant director of the Queens Center for Gay Seniors.

Prior to the pandemic, up to 70 seniors would frequent that center daily, said LeWarn. But having a tight space with few windows was one of the hurdles to a safe reopening, despite seniors’ excitement.

On Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo lifted most remaining COVID-19 restrictions. But safety measures like face coverings and social distancing will remain in place at senior centers, at least for now, DFTA said, citing unchanged guidance from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Despite the rain, more than 40 members showed up to Star on Monday. About 150 seniors would frequent the center on a typical day before the pandemic, Hernandez said.

A small but determined group of elderly women stretched with the aid of chairs and moved to the beat of blaring Latin music, taking their cue from an instructor who shouted words of encouragement into a microphone.

“We’re all so thrilled to be back,” Hernandez said.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Bill Berkrot)

More under-30 Americans report anxiety, depression during pandemic – CDC

By Vishwadha Chander

(Reuters) – More young adults in the United States reported feeling anxious or depressed during the past six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, and fewer people reported getting the help they needed, according to a U.S. government study released on Friday.

The percentage of adults under age 30 with recent symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder rose significantly about five months after the U.S. imposed COVID-19 related lockdowns, and reported rising deaths from the fast-spreading virus.

Between August 2020 and February 2021, this number went up to 41.5% from 36.4%, as did the percentage of such people reporting that they needed, but did not receive, mental health counseling.

The study suggests that the rise in anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms reported correspond with the weekly number of reported COVID-19 cases.

The findings are based on a Household Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Census Bureau to monitor changes in mental health status and access to care during the pandemic.

“Trends in mental health can be used to evaluate the impact of strategies addressing adult mental health status and care during the pandemic,” the authors of the study wrote in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released on Friday.

The study also found those with less than a high school education were more at risk, though it did not provide an explanation for it.

Even with more vaccines gaining authorization beginning late 2020, the effects of the pandemic on mental health continued into 2021.

During Jan. 20, 2021 through Feb. 1, 2021, about two in five adults aged over 18 years experienced recent symptoms of an anxiety or a depressive disorder, the survey found.

Demand for mental health and meditation apps, and investments in tech startups building these apps have also risen during this period.

(Reporting by Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; Editing by Caroline Humer and Shailesh Kuber)

One in five COVID-19 patients develop mental illness within 90 days: study

By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) – Many COVID-19 survivors are likely to be at greater risk of developing mental illness, psychiatrists said on Monday, after a large study found 20% of those infected with the coronavirus are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days.

Anxiety, depression and insomnia were most common among recovered COVID-19 patients in the study who developed mental health problems. The researchers from Britain’s Oxford University also found significantly higher risks of dementia, a brain impairment condition.

“People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings … show this to be likely,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford.

Doctors and scientists around the world urgently need to investigate the causes and identify new treatments for mental illness after COVID-19, Harrison said.

“(Health) services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates (of the number of psychiatric patients),” he added.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, analyzed electronic health records of 69 million people in the United States, including more than 62,000 cases of COVID-19. The findings are likely to be the same for those afflicted by COVID-19 worldwide, the researchers said

In the three months following testing positive for COVID-19, 1 in 5 survivors were recorded as having a first time diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia. This was about twice as likely as for other groups of patients in the same period, the researchers said.

The study also found that people with a pre-existing mental illness were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without.

Mental health specialists not directly involved with the study said its findings add to growing evidence that COVID-19 can affect the brain and mind, increasing the risk of a range of psychiatric illnesses.

“This is likely due to a combination of the psychological stressors associated with this particular pandemic and the physical effects of the illness,” said Michael Bloomfield, a consultant psychiatrist at University College London.

Simon Wessely, regius professor of psychiatry at King’s College London, said the finding that those with mental health disorders are also at higher risk of getting COVID-19 echoed similar findings in previous infectious disease outbreaks.

“COVID-19 affects the central nervous system, and so might directly increase subsequent disorders. But this research confirms that is not the whole story, and that this risk is increased by previous ill health,” he said.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the UK mental health charity SANE, said the study echoed her charity’s experience during the pandemic.

“Our helpline is dealing with an increasing number of first-time callers who are being triggered into mental health problems, as well as those who are relapsing because their fear and anxiety have become intolerable,” she said.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Angus MacSwan)

Stress? Fear of COVID-19? Therapists treating the vulnerable go online to help

By Menna A. Farouk

CAIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – As the spread of coronavirus grows so too has people’s stress levels and anxieties, prompting businesses for good around the world to turn to technology to help the most vulnerable cope with mental health issues.

In Egypt, online therapy social enterprise Shezlong has offered 150,000 free sessions to help people cope with anxiety or depression or those suffering from “pseudo coronavirus” where people are convinced they have COVID-19 although they do not.

Hard Feelings, a Canadian social enterprise that aims to make therapy more accessible by offering low-cost counselling sessions, has closed its Toronto store and its counsellors will be speaking to clients online.

In Britain, a group of qualified therapists have set up a volunteering scheme called the Help Hub, offering free 20-minute Skype, FaceTime or telephone calls to vulnerable people in need of mental health support.

Meanwhile in the United States, online therapy platform Talkspace, a company with more than one million users, is donating a free month of therapy to 1,000 healthcare workers fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

“With negative news coming from media outlets about coronavirus, people are getting more stressed and panicked and more and more people will need psychological support,” Shezlong founder Ahmed Abu ElHaz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

About 1,500 free sessions have been given since the three-month initiative launched in March in Egypt, which has more than 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins coronavirus resource center.

Conducted via video conference, the sessions offer coping techniques for dealing with bad news, in a country where 3% of the population – or 8.2 million – suffer from anxiety and mood disorders, according to 2018 Egyptian health ministry data.

“We use cognitive behavioural therapy which teaches patients how to manage stress and anxiety and gives relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and positive self-talk,” said Mohamed el-Shami, a therapist working for Shezlong.

Professor of Psychology at Cairo University Gamal Freusar said 70% of Egyptians were now classified as “pseudo coronavirus” as they assume they have the virus and think they have the symptoms although they actually do not.

“About two-thirds of Egyptian society is now having high levels of anxiety and tension and this may cause many physical problems for them,” he said.

U.S. online therapy platform Talkspace said it was donating free therapy to healthcare workers.

“The mental health of our social workers, nurses, doctors and other health personnel is now paramount,” Talkspace CEO Oren Frank said in a statement.

(Reporting by Menna A. Farouk in Cairo, Additional reporting by Sarah Shearman in London, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Greece must urgently move vulnerable migrants from island camp

FILE PHOTO: Refugees and migrants from the camp of Moria shout slogans in front of riot police during a protest over the camp's conditions, near the city of Mytilene, on the Greek island of Lesbos, May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Elias Marcou/File Photo

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece should urgently move children and other vulnerable migrants and refugees from its most overcrowded island camp to the mainland or to other EU countries for the sake of their mental and physical health, the MSF aid agency said on Monday.

The appeal from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) came days after the governor of the region where the Moria camp is based said it should be closed next month unless authorities clean up “uncontrollable amounts of waste”.

MSF said it had witnessed an unprecedented health crisis in the camp, Greece’s biggest and home to some 9,000 migrants, a third of whom are children. It said many teenagers had attempted to commit suicide or were harming themselves on a weekly basis.

Other children suffer from elective mutism, panic attacks and anxiety, it said in a statement.

“This is the third year that MSF has been calling on the Greek authorities and the EU to take responsibility for their collective failures,” the agency said.

“It is time to immediately evacuate the most vulnerable to safe accommodation in other European countries.”

The migrants in the camp, which is on the island of Lesbos, are housed in shipping containers and flimsy tents in conditions widely criticized as falling short of basic standards.

Greece is a gateway into the European Union for hundreds of thousands of refugees who have arrived since 2015 from Syria and other war-ravaged countries in the Middle East and from Africa.

Athens, which exited the biggest bailout in economic history in August, is struggling to handle the thousands of refugees who are stranded on its islands.

It has criticized Europe’s handling of the refugee crisis and some EU member states for being reluctant to share their burden.

Last week, 19 non-governmental organizations urged Greece to take action to alleviate the plight of refugees in all its island camps, not just Moria, to render them more fit for human habitation. The total number of migrants and refugees holed up in the island camps exceeds 17,000.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Gareth Jones)