Dr. Kristina Sowar, a University of New Mexico professor and child psychiatrist, is set to speak during a Tuesday virtual seminar about how the pandemic has affected New Mexicans.

Sowar said the talk, hosted by the Santa Fe chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, also will focus on resilience and self-care.

The pandemic’s effects include heightened stress and anxiety, feelings of isolation, more substance abuse and disordered eating, Sowar said.

“Some people probably have better foundational pieces to support resiliency,” she said. “But we know for a lot of people, [there have] been increased levels of anxiety.”

While national research on mental health through the pandemic is available, Sowar said, UNM researchers are still working to collect local data.

When it comes to people seeking professional help, she added, “we know anecdotally that numbers are up in New Mexico.”

In the U.S., through the bulk of 2020, the proportion of mental health-related trips to the emergency room increased 24 per-cent among children ages 5-11 and 31 percent among children ages 12-17, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sowar said she hopes the pandemic serves as a wake-up call about the need for more mental health care options in New Mexico.

“We have outpatient services and hospital services, but we don’t have steps in between that people can get to if they’re really struggling but aren’t so acute they need to be in the hospital,” she said.

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