Nurse, psychologist share ways to combat depression during a difficult time

Raquel Garcia Truman Medical Center COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 5:39 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-30 19:17:29-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Psychologists in the Kansas City area have seen an increase in depression, anxiety and hopelessness during the holiday season and amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Abbey Gripka, a clinical psychologist at Truman Medical Center, said the root of much of the depression among her patients is isolation and not being able to see family and friends.

But she also shared some ways to combat those feelings.

"Still trying to stay physically active or still trying to just step outside, get a change of pace, go for a drive, get out of those four walls," Gripka said, are among the options to alleviate monotony.

Gripka said it's normal to feel some hopelessness or anxiety with the pandemic, a difficult holiday season and the transition to winter, but it's important to recognize the difference between what's normal and when to seek help.

"It can become a problem if we start finding that we are completely withdrawing from activities, that we can't get out of bed, that we've lost our appetite, we're over-sleeping or we're not sleeping enough," Gripka said.

Raquel Garcia, a community health education nurse at Truman Medical Cenrter, said the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a mental and emotional toll for her at work and in her personal life.

Garcia is part of a team that sets up and runs mobile COVID-19 testing units. She's been on the frontline of the pandemic since day one and said the work takes a toll.

Away from work, Garcia has had several close friends and family members die during the pandemic.

"It's just one funeral after another," she said. "It's getting to the point where you're almost immune. I mean, it's hard to be sad anymore. You're just building a wall."

Garcia said receiving the COVID-19 vaccine provided a new sense of hope. She hopes it will for others as well.

"The end is coming; normalcy is coming," Garcia said.

She doesn't want to sugarcoat it, though. There's still a lot of work to do before the world is normal again.

"It's making sure that we take responsibility for that, that we know that it's not going to come back unless we all participate in this and understand what herd immunity is," Garcia said.

Truman Medical Center Behavioral Health has a 24-hour hotline for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis. For help with substance abuse, counseling, diagnosis and treatment options, or other services the hospital and its health system offers, call 888-279-8188 anytime.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which also can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255, is another resource for those contemplating self-harm.