Number of people seeking help in therapy increasing as Floyd death unrest, COVID uncertainty take toll

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Minnesota psychologists are seeing an increase in people seeking professional therapy.

“There are so many more cases of depression, anxiety, and trauma related to everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and a lot of the civil unrest,”  Dr. Talee Vang, senior clinical psychologist in primary care behavioral health at Hennepin Healthcare, said.

Dr. Vang uses COVID as an example where people might be less active, seeing people less, eating out less and being social, which can make people sadder and affect their energy levels.

“It becomes this vicious cycle where people who may never have had any struggles with depression may notice that they’re feeling sadder or having a lower mood or lower energy," she said.

It’s hard to know, she said, when a normal low mood transitions into something that deserves professional attention. One early warning sign to take note of is losing interest or pleasure in things you normally enjoy. She says to reach out for help when you notice changes in behavior and thoughts.

“When the depressive thoughts start to take over how you see the world, how you’re interacting with friends, loved ones, if you're irritable,” Dr. Vang said. “That’s usually when I would say don’t wait until you are so severely depressed that you can’t avoid it anymore. Don’t wait until then because psychotherapy can  help you from the very early stages of depression.”

She recommends starting with asking for a referral from your primary care doctor, but finding compatibility with someone you feel comfortable sharing things with could take a few tries.

If you are concerned about a loved one or friend with suicidal thoughts, Dr. Vang says to not be afraid to ask outright.

“Just ask very straightforward, ‘Have you been having thoughts of suicide?’” Dr. Vang said. “Studies have shown that asking that question doesn’t actually implant the thought into someone’s mind. Oftentimes people are very relieved to talk about it and if they haven;t thought about it it blows over, it’s just a question.”

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