SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) — As fall approaches and brings with it a change in weather, the seasonal change can bring about loneliness and anxiety to many people, and though the weather change is more subtle in the south, people in northwest Louisiana are not immune to those feelings.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is quite common as fall and winter approach, and more people are likely to have feelings of depression as the days get shorter, colder, and darker. The number of people struggling with mental health and substance use has grown exponentially over the last several years.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals with mental illness or substance use increased. According to the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, heightened anxiety and depression have increased due to changes in their environment. When the world around them is changing, people tend to feel unsafe.

According to Kaiser Family Foundation, more than three in 10 adults in the United States have reported symptoms of anxiety and depression since May 2020, while in 2019, only one in 10 adults reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. Health officials are now finding that recovery from the negative effects of the pandemic needs to include plans for addressing the mental health of all people.

Are mental health services essential?

Many people question whether mental health resources are essential. Are more people struggling with their mental health or is it just becoming more socially acceptable to get treatment for mental health issues than in the past?

The answer may be the latter. According to the American Psychology Association, Generation Z is more likely to report to their healthcare practitioners, friends, and family if they struggle with mental health or serious substance use.

While many people will face anxiety and feelings of loneliness at times, those feelings can pass on their own, but sometimes they may just need a little extra help to get them over the feelings of hopelessness.

When someone is struggling with mental health, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts, there are options. There are many resources in the community and healthcare system that can offer some help. These resources can be found locally and online. 

Who is impacted by mental health issues and substance use?

Mental health-related issues and substance use are no respecters of persons. They can impact anyone, regardless of age, sexuality, gender, religion or race.

Individuals in the LGBTQIA+ Community are at higher risk of being diagnosed with mental illnesses. The University of Maryland completed a study on the availability of sexuality-specific mental health and substance use treatment in the United States. The study determined there is limited availability of culturally-competent mental health and substance use treatment, despite the well-documented need for it.

LGBTQIA+ individuals are not the only group of people who are affected by these issues, but they are among the top number. Because of the sensitivity around sexuality and gender identity, those in that community oftentimes are the ones experiencing feelings of hopelessness.

Poverty is a major factor in how people are affected by various mental health and substance use issues. The strain of financial insecurity and food insecurity is likely to precede mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, making it a risk factor for mental illness.

State-by-state rankings for mental health care

Many scholarly resources break down how each state ranks in mental health care for children and adults and substance use. Maryland ranks #1 in mental healthcare in the United States, whereas Louisiana ranks #32.

Louisiana consistently ranks low for mental health care, and substance use treatment yet ranks high in the number of people diagnosed with mental illness or struggling with substance use disorders.

Reportedly, in Louisiana, 32.5% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety and/or depression compared to 31.6% of adults in the country. While the Louisiana percentage is not much higher than the nation, most of them are on Medicaid, and of the 29 mental health services offered in the state, nine services are not covered under Medicaid.

Online resources 

While therapy benefits many people, knowing where to start can be difficult. Resources like PsychologyToday, BetterHelp, and GoodTherapy are all websites that help narrow down the search for a therapist or psychiatrist. Through these websites, people can narrow down the best fit for them. The websites offer filters for specific issues, faith values, location, and gender. 

As well as finding a therapist or support group online, Facebook groups are a good resource and a way to find people dealing with the same issues. There is no shortage of online resources available for people who need them.

Local mental health resources

There are many local resources throughout northwest Louisiana for mental health and substance use. All major hospitals offer mental health services, whether those be in-patient or one-to-one therapy. Not only do people have options for traditional mental health care, but there are also support groups, community events, alcoholics anonymous, and narcotics anonymous.

This list is not exhaustive, and there are many local resources to find behavioral health, mental health, and substance use treatment in Louisiana. Parents of students in the school system can contact their children’s school’s office and school counselors for more resources on treatment for mental health and suicide prevention.

Mental health crisis resources

Even with the best options out there, when someone is in crisis, resources are available:

  • Call 988 if you are having thoughts or urges of suicide.
  • Crisis text hotline text HOME to 741741

What to do when you can’t afford therapy

Sometimes the help people need is almost within reach, but they can’t quite make it happen. Some therapists offer a sliding scale fee for sessions to make care more accessible for everyone. People who qualify for state Medicaid or Medicare may be able to get mental healthcare at little to no out-of-pocket cost.

People finding themselves in a situation where they cannot afford therapy can be incredibly stressful and anxiety-inducing. That’s where online resources come in, and they’re there – Facebook groups, as well as compassionate friends and family.

Seeking out help in times of crisis can be very difficult, but there are options, and you are not alone.