As a cancer survivor myself, I enjoy working with cancer patients, to help improve quality-of-life while they go through treatment. We do this by addressing symptoms that may arise practically and imaginatively. Living with uncertainty, pain, and compromised physical ability takes a cumulative toll. I am here to help.
Life Transitions Therapy is helpful for adults with serious, life-limiting medical illness, life-threatening illness as well as caregivers and those who are bereaved. Change is hard, even in the best of circumstances. Adjusting to major life transitions can be difficult. Coping and navigating the stress of a major change can cause depression and anxiety, evoke fear and confusion.
Demand for anxiety and depression treatment at an all-time high
Survey indicates that demand for anxiety and depression treatment remains high for the third consecutive year while demand for treatment for trauma- and stressor-related disorders and substance-use disorders has grown.
Speaker Aims to Improve Mental Health Access for Older Adults
An estimated one in four older adults experiences a mental health condition, including depression, anxiety and substance use disorder, and individuals age 85 or older had the highest suicide rate in 2020, according to the committee. The opioid epidemic has also severely burdened older Americans. Almost 80,000 older adults died from an opioid overdose between 1999 and 2019.
Caregivers focus on positive emotions to reduce anxiety and depression
Caring for family members with dementia — which is on the rise in the U.S. — causes significant emotional and physical stress that increases caregivers’ risk of depression, anxiety and death. A method presented in one study for coping with that stress by teaching people how to focus on positive emotions reduced their anxiety and depression after six weeks. It also resulted in better self-reported physical health and positive attitudes toward caregiving.
It’s Okay to Talk About It!
Good mental health promotes a positive self-image and leads to more fulfilling relationships. Having good mental health generates good decision making and life’s challenges become more doable.
Family well-being at risk during pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning. A study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.
Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being. “Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”
Feinberg added that understanding what can help parents maintain positive parenting practices, such as a positive coparenting relationship, is key for helping protect children during future crises — whether those crises are pandemics, economic shocks or natural disasters. While cross-sectional studies have suggested there has been a negative impact of the pandemic on families, the researchers said this study is one of the first to measure just how much these factors have changed within families before and after the pandemic hit.
According to the researchers, previous research has found that periods of financial stress, such as the Great Depression and the 2008 recession, have led to higher levels of parent stress, mental health problems and interparental conflict, which can all lead to more harsh, and even abusive, parenting. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Feinberg said it led to not only financial stress within families, but also problems related to being isolated together, issues managing work and childcare, and general fear related to the sudden health threat that was poorly understood.
For the study, the researchers used data from 129 families, which included 122 mothers and 84 fathers, with an average of 2.3 children per family. The parents answered an online questionnaire that asked them about their depressive symptoms, anxiety, the quality of their relationship with their coparent, and externalizing and internalizing behavior they observed in their children, among other measures. Because the participants were part of a longer study measuring these factors over prior years, the researchers already had data on these parents and children from before the pandemic.
The researchers found that parents were 2.4 times more likely to report “clinically significant” high levels of depression after the pandemic hit than before. They were also 2.5 times and 4 times more likely to report externalizing and internalizing problems, respectively, in their children at levels high enough that professional help might be needed. Feinberg said that while it makes sense that families would experience these difficulties, he was shocked at the magnitude of the declines in well-being.
“The size of these changes are considered very large in our field and are rarely seen,” Feinberg said. “We saw not just overall shifts, but greater numbers of parents and children who were in the clinical range for depression and behavior problems, which means they were likely struggling with a diagnosable disorder and would benefit from treatment.” Feinberg put the size of the declines in parent and child well-being in perspective by pointing out that the increase in parents’ levels of depressive symptoms in the first months of the pandemic was about twice as large as the average benefit of antidepressants.
The researchers said that as the risk of future pandemics and natural disasters increases with the effects of climate change, so will the likelihood of families facing stressful conditions again in the future. “Getting ready for these types of crises could include helping families prepare — not just by stocking up on supplies, but also by improving family resiliency and psychological coping resources,” Feinberg said. “In my view, that means providing the kinds of family prevention programs we’ve been developing and testing at the Prevention Research Center for the past 20 years.”
Read this article on ScienceDaily: Penn State. “COVID-19 pandemic may have increased mental health issues within families.”
Dr. Jenny Holland, PsyD
Dr. Holland is a psychotherapist practicing in Santa Rosa California, providing cutting edge, integrative and evidence-based mental health care, proven effective with depression and anxiety, life transitions; pregnancy, parenting, ageing, loss, and caring for a parent or loved one during a health crisis or decline.
In-person and Online Video Counseling Services are now available. Short-term sessions, single sessions or ongoing support to meet your needs. Contact Dr. Holland to schedule an appointment at 707-479-2946.