Have you heard the good news? The COVID-19 epidemic in the United States is over! On the stroke of midnight March 1, most states and local governments lifted their mask mandates, essentially declaring the pandemic under control. Or at least that is the message to consumers; health care professionals may be hearing a different message.
After 3 years of battling COVID-19, and close to 1 million deaths, the mental health toll of the pandemic is evident everywhere. As our cover story reports, children and adolescents are presenting with eating disorders in greater numbers and severity than prepandemic. “We are seeing eating disorder rise in rates that I have never seen in my whole career,” Jessica Peck, DNP, told The Clinical Advisor.

For at-risk youths, the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruption in school, sports, social and leisure activities, as well as an increase in social media use. “We have seen patients who are coming in more malnourished and more entrenched in these eating disorder thoughts than I have ever seen before,” Christin Cwynar, DNP, said. Primary care clinicians can play a key role in early diagnosis and management of these youths.

This level of stress and anxiety is also reflected in the results of an online survey we conducted between January 7 and March 3, 2022. “Pizza is not enough,” wrote one respondent. “Clinicians need to know that health care leaders hear their complaints and will respond to the need to be protected, prepared, supported, and cared for as they continue to” put themselves on the frontlines of this and future pandemics, wrote author Catherine R. Judd, MS, PA-C, CAQ-Psy.

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Another frightening example of the mental health effects of COVID-19 is a case report of a mother who tried to make her children drink bleach, thinking they were infected with parasites. The patient was diagnosed with COVID-19 psychosis, which can occur both in the active phase of infection as well as up to 3 months after infection. The patient recovered after intense inpatient therapy and medication management.

These articles are just a reminder that although the pandemic may be “over,” its longer-term effects are just starting to be felt.

Nikki Kean, Director
The Clinical Advisor