The COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate and dramatic impact on virtually every aspect of daily life, including education, business, social gatherings, healthcare, religious worship, and other common activities. Even mundane events like grocery shopping or eating at a restaurant were transformed by new rules and guidelines that fundamentally altered the experience. A new, unfamiliar routine became our shared reality. Along with social distancing and increased isolation, these wholly unfamiliar experiences created an environment of alienation and uncertainty that had a direct impact on our nation’s mental health.
While many experts at the time predicted a looming mental health crisis as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is only now becoming clear just how severe the impact was. On March 4, Intermountain Health released results of a new study examining the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on 136,000 patients in the Salt Lake City area.
The study found that depressive symptoms and severity of depression was significant among all patients in the study, regardless of whether or not the patient had been infected with COVID-19. The incidence of depressive symptoms rose significantly during the pandemic, with more than half of all patients reporting clinically significant depressive symptoms, as measured by a PHQ-9 test, a standard assessment for depression in patients. [Source]
“It didn’t matter if a patient was positive or negative for the virus. We found increased rates of depression and depression severity across the board.”
–Heidi T. May, PhD, cardiovascular epidemiologist at Intermountain Health and principal investigator of the study
Increased Depression in Utah
The study determined that both the number of patients experiencing depression and the severity of depressive symptoms had increased. Prior to the pandemic, about 45 percent of all patients reported experiencing some level of depression. Beginning in 2021, that increased to 55 percent of all patients. In addition, the mean PHQ-9 score increased by 1.5 points, indicating more severe levels of depression across all patients.
The PHQ-9 assessments were completed by patients in a primary care setting between January 1, 2016 and April 20, 2022. Only a patient’s first PHQ-9 assessment was used in the study.
The Physical Impact of Depression
Mental health struggles take a physical toll on the body as well as a mental toll. A large and growing body of research shows that mental health is associated with risk factors for heart disease. People experiencing depression, anxiety, stress, and PTSD over an extended period may experience physiologic effects on the body, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, reduced blood flow to the heart, and heightened levels of cortisol, which can lead to clogged arteries, metabolic disease, and heart disease. (Source)
According to the CDC, the best way to avoid a heart disease event from a mental health disorder is through early intervention of the mental health issue. Visiting a qualified mental health provider and establishing a care plan is the most important step a patient can take to improve their mental health and prevent associated physical health issues.
Prior to the pandemic, mental health care was already in crisis mode due to a shortage of skilled mental health providers. (Source) Now, with the increase in patients looking for help with depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that worsened due to the pandemic, many patients wonder whether they will be able to find mental health care for themselves or a loved one.
Where to find mental health care in Utah?
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy for patients to find a mental health provider. Patients report long wait times for their first appointment or have difficulty finding a provider who accepts their insurance. However, some providers in Utah, like Ampelis Health, maintain schedule availability for new patient appointments and accept the majority of commercial insurance plans to make it easy for new patients to obtain care. Patients who are having difficulty finding a mental health provider to treat their depression are encouraged to call Ampelis Health for an available appointment.
What to expect as a new patient for depression treatment?
With the increase in depression in Utah (as demonstrated by the study), many patients are now seeking treatment for depression for the first time. Many patients wonder what to expect from treatment and may even be apprehensive about their first visit.
At Ampelis Health, all new patients receive a phone screening prior to their first visit. They are then matched with a provider who is specialized and trained to meet their unique needs. At the first appointment, patients receive a warm welcome at our comfortable office where they meet with a psychiatrist or licensed psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). Their provider will ask questions to understand the symptoms, severity, and impact that depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD or other mental issues are having on the patient. After seeking to thoroughly understand the patient’s needs, the provider will recommend a treatment plan, which may include the following treatments:
Ampelis Health providers may issue new medication prescriptions, refills for existing medications the patient is taking, or modify the dosage of current medications. Prescribing antidepressant medication is a common first-line treatment.
Ketamine is a fast-acting antidepression treatment that can relieve acute symptoms of depression faster than other common depression treatments. Patients typically report alleviation of symptoms within a few hours or days after first treatment. Your Ampelis provider will determine whether ketamine is an appropriate treatment for you.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an FDA-approved psychiatric treatment that has revolutionized treatment for depression, anxiety, OCD, and PTSD. TMS uses a stimulus/response mechanism to stimulate the brain to create new, healthy neural pathways that bring about long-lasting relief from mental health issues. TMS is approved for depression treatment and covered by most major insurance plans, making it an ideal option for patients seeking long-lasting relief.
Ampelis coaching truly sets Ampelis Health apart from other mental health providers. We don’t just stop at medication management or treatments like ketamine and TMS. Ampelis patients receive an evidence-based curriculum of education and coaching material, with convenient access through a mobile app, and facilitated during TMS treatment by their TMS technician. Afterward, patients receive ongoing coaching and mentoring through expert professional coaches who help patients accomplish life goals and find true meaning and purpose. Patients tell us that Ampelis coaching made a significant difference for them in their journey to finally be free from depression.
Depression Help in Utah
If you are seeking help for depression in Utah, take the first step toward healing and call Ampelis Health today. New patients can typically be seen within a week at our Highland or South Ogden locations. Call us today at 435-776-5909 and let’s begin the journey together.