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No matter where one lives, the past few years have been filled with the anxiety and stress of COVID-19 pandemic illness, accompanied by fear, loss, and isolation. Coupled with anxiety over inflation, housing insecurity, and supply chain shortages, this is a growing mental health challenge. A new United States health advisory panel is now recommending annual screening of adults ages 65 and under for anxiety.

On Tuesday, for the first time, an influential health guidelines group known as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has recommended anxiety screening in primary care for adults without symptoms. The task force has developed a draft recommendation on the topic that is open for public comment through Oct. 17. Guidelines from the task force often determine insurance coverage.

Solvista Health center at 111 Vesta Rd. in Salida. Courtesy photo

The recommendation comes in response to a rise in those adults seeking treatment for anxiety. The percent of adults under 65 seeing health services for anxiety rose from 19 percent last year to 21 percent this year; now accounting for one in every five Americans.

Primary care doctors already have anxiety on their radar screen. In 2020, a group affiliated with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended routine primary care anxiety screening for women and girls starting at age 13.

But behavioral health professionals also point out that diagnosing anxiety is not a rapid process. In fact, the average amount of time a person lives with it before seeking help or being diagnosed is 23 years. Here in Chaffee County, and across our region, our behavioral health services are provided by multiple locations of Solvista Health.

As Olympic athlete Michael Phelps said a few years ago when he sought treatment for anxiety, “to be 100 percent our authentic self we have to take care of ourselves.”

Among the ways to cope and reduce anxiety are getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, recognizing the symptoms of anxiety, and pausing to step back or step out of the situation bringing on the symptoms. Learning calming breathing exercises, or making a habit each day of jotting down three things for which you are thankful, are among many self-help suggestions.

Seeking help, say the behavioral health professionals is not a sign of weakness. “Regardless of where you are in your life, it can affect anyone anywhere, anytime.”

Colorado mental health professionals will be focusing on mental health on Thursday, Sept. 29 with a special screening of their upcoming documentary film. The film is prerecorded, and you can sign up to receive access to the film and support the work of mental health across Colorado. Follow this link: