MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – Doctors across the country and on the Grand Strand are hearing and seeing from more patients with mental health concerns as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

One pharmaceutical company for Cigna reports a 34% increase in anti-anxiety medications during mid-March.

“My patients would say, “Hey I need my refills for blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, whatever, but also what do you think about something to help me sleep?, Doctor Gerald Harmon at Tidelands Health said.

Robert Edge, the Horry County Coroner, tells News13, while there is no way to connect the deaths to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a slight increase in suicides in the past 30 days.

He tells News13, the fear of the virus, financial strain and isolation can all contribute to anxiety and depression.

“[People} are worried about their financial situation, their business, they are worried about their family members,” Doctor Harmon explained. 

Doctor Harmon says the virus has created the perfect storm for both doctors and patients as social distancing has eliminated one way to cope with mental or behavioral health concerns; group therapy.

“What we’ve done is we’ve taken one of our therapeutic options which is tell folks with behavioral health issues to get involved in a group, share your stories; lean upon this individual, that individual,” Doctor Harmon explained.

He said it’s important for people to realize what they are feeling is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

“We really can get our arms and our thoughts around this if we realize being stressed, being anxious, being depressed, is not abnormal,” Doctor Harmon said.”That’s a normal response.”

Doctor Harmon also says the medical community is anticipating a surge of patients seeking help for mental health concerns when the pandemic passes.

“A lot of folks have put off going to the doctor, their regular medical visits,” Harmon said. “We’ve delayed some of the knee surgeries, hip surgeries, plastic surgery events so that’s put people in a stressed environment too. We also need to be prepared, in the new world there are going to be some economic concerns that may have reduced healthcare benefits and access for folks.”

Click here for more information on mental health support from Tidelands Health, and here for support from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.