COVID-19 has impacted more than just our physical health. It has placed an unprecedented strain on our mental health as well. Across the country, those struggling with mental health issues have increased as we experience isolation, loneliness, and loss. In our insufficient healthcare system, dealing with those who have a mental illness frequently falls to local police departments.

As mental health disorders increased, access to counseling and group meetings went down. Many mental health providers initially quit seeing patients in person. Eventually, they offered therapy services via web-based video services, but not everyone could benefit from this. Now more options are opening for those to seek help. One practice includes the Geode Health practice in Frisco, Texas, which will be opening later this year.

Texas City Police Department Face a Rising Number of Incidents

In 2020, the police department in Frisco, Texas, saw a consistent rise in monthly mental health-related incidents. Compared with their previous rolling five-year monthly average, reported mental health struggles in citizens were considerably more frequent. The increase in mental health incidents was worse in some months than others, and while the COVID pandemic may not be the cause of the rise, there is at least some correlation.

An incident, in this case, counts as anything that gets formally documented and is related to mental health, including referrals to the crisis intervention team. The Frisco Crisis Intervention Team consists of about 15 officers dedicated to ensuring people get the help they need and connecting them to the necessary resources. While the intentions are good, the Frisco Crisis Intervention Team is only a drop in the bucket for dealing with mental health problems throughout the vast state of Texas.

COVID-19 Affecting Mental Health

COVID has increased the rates of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse, and sleep disorders. Sergeant Evan Mattei, the public information officer within the Frisco Police Department, declared the rise in mental health incidents a clear correlation with the pandemic’s start. With increased levels of mental health struggles seen worldwide, it’s clear that the impacts of COVID-19 intensified the causes of many mental health disorders. Unfortunately, the police are ill-equipped to handle this unprecedented rise alone.

As rates of mental health illnesses continue rising even as COVID restrictions ease, a correlation is hard to draw. Studies show that COVID patients are at an increased risk of developing mental health problems in the months following infection. But whether worsened mental health after COVID is due to physical effects or social impacts like loneliness and isolation remains unclear. The best way forward for communities worldwide is an increased emphasis on mental health care for all.

Handling the Surge in Mental Health Struggles

Sgt. Mattei expressed his support for the community, urging people to reach out if they need help and not wait until it’s too late. He also said that people should not avoid reaching out to the police for help as most interactions remain anonymous. A negative stigma is often associated with mental health illness, but today most police departments fight against the shame many feel when they suffer from a mental health issue.

Sometimes, speaking to someone is the best thing we can do for our mental health, and this doesn’t have to be the police. It could involve a simple conversation with a friend, or you could seek out other available mental health resources in your community. Fortunately, more options are becoming available for those pursuing help. One practice includes the Geode Health practice in Frisco, Texas, which will be opening later this year.

Are Police Departments Properly Equipped to Help?

Upon considering the overall picture, health departments are only a fraction of the institutions affected by the pandemic. The impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on mental health, police departments, and the education system have been enormous. It has overwhelmed both the Frisco health department and police departments in different ways.

In light of increased mental health struggles, it may be time for authorities to introduce a new kind of emergency service. While Frisco has a crisis intervention team trained to connect people with the help they need, other police departments have been less successful. Opening a mental health crisis line for those in need would protect the most vulnerable in society while relieving the strain on police officers.

Whichever way you look at it, COVID has been detrimental to the mental health of many across the globe. One good thing that’s come out of this is an increased awareness of the community-led effort needed to keep existing mental health services up and running in times of crisis. It has also shown the need for more crisis intervention programs like Frisco’s. It’s time to open the conversation around mental health and reduce the stigma faced by people with mental health struggles.