By Heather Janssen

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As the fight against COVID continues, many people are struggling with mental health issues. Some experts are calling it a pandemic within a pandemic.

“Not knowing where your check is going to come from,” said Savannah Sims. “It’s hard trying to find a job.”

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It’s been a difficult year for Sims. Despite the realities of the pandemic, she still tries to find the good among the bad.

“Positivity is ultimately what makes a difference,” Sims said.

But the struggle to stay positive gets harder each day for many people.

“For me – it’s been kind of tough,” said Joseph Basata. Open about his anxiety and depression, he wonders how it will be possible for many people to go back to ‘normal’ someday.

“I think it’s definitely going to stick in a lot of people’s minds,” he said.

He’s not alone. Data from the CDC shows about 40% of Californians reported struggling with symptoms of anxiety last month. The state is among the top five worst for anxiety nationwide.

“As we get more people who want the service, it’s getting harder to maintain,” said David Bain, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Sacramento chapter.

Bain said he’s seen a notable increase over the last year with people turning to the non-profit for help. Psychiatrists say children and seniors are among those who have it the worst.

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“It’ll take longer to get out of this pandemic than the COVID pandemic,” Bain said.

Lingering long-term, some dealing with loss and grief while others just re-acclimate to life and get over new anxieties.

UC Davis Health psychiatrist Dr. Peter Yellowlees said more people have been referred for anxiety and depression. At this phase of the pandemic, he said, so close to the end – it’s important to check-in.

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“The problem with that phase is that people don’t help each other enough,” Dr. Yellowlees said.

For those struggling, he reminds people to get help if they need it, even though he said it may be hard to get into a therapist at the moment.

He also recommends simple things like exercise, getting enough sleep and enjoying the outdoors. But also, looking ahead to the promise of the future and make plans ahead of time with loved ones.

“Planning ahead is absolutely fine,” Dr. Yellowlees said. “I just wouldn’t buy the plane ticket yet.”

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Remembering hope is on the horizon; even when it seems like there’s no end in sight.

Heather Janssen