PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginian’s mental health is suffering during the pandemic. Just how much shocked even the lead investigator of the COVIDSmart study.

Dr. Sunita Dodani, Director of the EVMS-Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute revealed during 10 On Your Side’s Coronavirus Digital Discussion, that mental health concerns are triple what they were pre-pandemic.

“Numbers have increased, that was not a surprise, but… the numbers are going to be three times higher than the pre-COVID time, that is what surprised us,” she said.

Dr. Dodani said 7% of people suffered from moderate to severe depression pre-pandemic. Now, it’s up to 24% and moderate to severe anxiety symptoms have jumped from 6% to 22%.

This, according to 450 people from across Virginia who responded to the COVIDSmart survey since March.

The initiative is sponsored by EVMS-Sentara Healthcare Analytics and Delivery Science Institute (HADSI), George Mason University, and health technology company Vibrent Health to help guide policy and create new treatment programs in the future.

Dr. Dodani said these results make it clear we need more mental health and primary care doctors. “It will take time, Stephanie, to improve anxiety, to improve depression. It requires a coordinated effort not just the doctor but also the family, peers, socials workers.”

Of those responding to the survey so far, 70% are women between the ages of 35 and 60.
Dr. Dodani isn’t yet sure if women are suffering more, or just responding more.

“That is something we have to investigate further and develop more questions and surveys,” she told WAVY.

She would like to see 2,000 people enrolled in the study. It is open to all people over the age of 18 in Virginia. All you have to do is take the COVIDSmart survey online and follow up surveys two and then six months after.

BELOW: Watch the full Coronavirus Digital Discussion.