WACO, Texas – Oceans Behavioral Hospital in Waco is finally starting to see collective spirits rise just a bit after the COVID-19 pandemic made mental health issues worse nationwide.

The hospital serves more than 60 percent elderly patients, and say the shutdowns hit them hard.

“It really took an effect on them, because all of a sudden these geriatric patients that are used to having visitors come in and see them, weren’t able to see them,” hospital administrator Matthew Love said. “A lot of people weren’t able to understand or comprehend what was happening, and why they couldn’t visit folks.”

They also saw a rise in adolescents and young adults needing help and turning to dangerous coping mechanisms.

“I did see an increase in volume from younger folks with behavioral issues, in particular with substance abuse disorders – whether it be alcohol or some other drug,” Love said.

The pandemic shutdown also made people focus on the way law enforcement agencies were run – with a facet of Americans hoping mental health officials could at least ride along with police for some calls.

Love believes this will help since sometimes first responders are thrust into situations only mental health officials can handle.

“They truly end up being the front line in the mental health battlefield,” Love said. “They are the ones who respond to the calls of someone who is having a mental health breakdown. They have to transport those folks and deal with emergency detention orders.”

He also believes they will assist law enforcement in the years to come more than they already do.

“Us working hand-in-hand with them to ease that process and make things a lot easier for them,” Love said. “It gives them the ability then to deal with more severe issues and incidents that occur in the community.”

The pandemic even brought about some unexpected benefits for the mental health community.

“The behavioral health industry itself was kind of able to transform a bit,” Love said. “We’re offering a lot more virtual services through the internet. In fact, you’re starting to see a lot more commercials about it saying, ‘Please, come get more help. We know you’re suffering, and you don’t have to suffer alone. Visit us online if you don’t want to do it in person.’”