WABASH VALLEY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — On May 11th the Public Health Emergency declared in response to COVID-19 expired but effects still linger in terms of mental health.

“I think that it’s appropriate to declare with the changes that have occurred,” Dr. Alan Stewart, Knox County Health Officer said.

Stewart added that we have now reached an endemic phase.

“And with that it is appropriate to end the government emergency. And that of course means that things for our society with regard to businesses, healthcare and so forth,” Stewart said.

Stewart said the risk is down enough that while we can’t ignore the virus, we have to move on.

“One thing the pandemic has done is drawn a significant attention to public health and the governor’s public health program. Which I applaud him for,” Stewart said. “Hopefully we will not just be taking the COVID pandemic lessons we learned from that but applying that to healthcare in Indiana and making public health more of a priority.”

Billie Wenzel, Director of Behavioral Health at Turning Leaf in Sullivan County said, “We are still seeing lots of effects, a lot of people coming in. A lot of fear. I have a lot of clients that are afraid that it’s going to happen again. And I have a couple of clients that have said, you know, ‘all these years that you know you have your life, and you don’t think the world’s going to stop.’ And now knowing that it can, so suddenly, has really put a lot of fear into the minds of people.”

Wenzel says that with the increase trauma and anxiety they have also see an increase in addiction.

“What we’re finding now is that there are so many cases of anxiety,” Wenzel said. “A lot of them are from people that have never had anxiety, but since the pandemic. So, the isolation was a big part of it, the depression of being away from family and friends, but the anxiety of the unknown too.”

Turning Leaf recently expanded their services to include teens and young adults. A population that Wenzel says they are seeing a huge increase of mental health needs.

Wenzel encourages those struggling to find a support person, a friend, a family member, a teacher, a therapist and not to be afraid or ashamed to reach out for help.

Wenzel said there’s a stigma when it comes to mental health and I do think that the teenage generation, a lot of them, don’t have the sigma as older people do. I think that’s really good. A lot of the teens have realized it’s okay to not be okay.

So, while the Public Health Emergency declared in response to COVID-19 expired the effects the virus had on the public continue to linger.