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Study finds cases of anxiety, depression rose among Hawaii residents in 2020

Published: Oct. 16, 2021 at 5:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The quality of life in Hawaii has historically ranked very high compared to other states. However, the pandemic has since altered that.

A study co-authored by UH Manoa Professor of Psychology, Jack Barile found Hawaii residents’ mental health has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic compared to other states.

It found rising reports of anxiety or depression between March and December 2020 as COVID cases rose.

“We’re seeing that mostly by people that are not upper management, that they’re the kind of line employees, their service employees,” said Barile. “A lot of people that were directly servants servicing the hospitality and tourism industry locally.”

Barile said limited tourism and layoffs ignited by the pandemic affected residents’ mental health with anxiety and depression.

He said their research showed many Hawaii residents are really only a couple paychecks away from financial disaster.

One way to prevent negative impact is providing new economic opportunities locally.

“So, I do think that means producing employment sectors outside of tourism,” said Barile. “I think that is important, that are locally sustainable.”

Although Barile’s findings show that the situation has improved since December, the demand for mental healthcare is still high.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Richard Ries works 12 hours a day.

“It’s been very busy,” said Ries. “My schedule is extremely demanding.” Ries’ next available appointment isn’t until January.

“I’ve also seen worsening of cases that already existed, and I’ve had a lot more referrals come through that are you know people saying that they can’t even find treatment,” Ries explained.

Hawaii’s rankings regarding mental health is no surprise to Ries who points out factors like COVID restrictions, economic impacts with businesses, distance learning and isolating in a crowded home.

“The mental health crisis is going to continue for a lot longer than the other difficulties,” said Ries. “We’re going to see echoes of this for years.”

Help is available for Hawaii Residents including the Hawaii CARES Line, you can reach them at 808-832-3100.

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