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Struggling with mental health? St. Louis psychiatrist’s app can help

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Erick M. Ramos
/
NPR
Rates of adolescent depression, anxiety and mental health distress have risen since the start of the COVIFD-19 pandemic.

Americans are struggling. Rates of depression and anxiety have increased since the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said. Young people have been particularly affected.

Yet getting help isn’t easy. Many mental health providers have left the field, leaving a high demand for services amid a dearth of providers. Dr. Dale Anderson, a St. Louis psychiatrist, said some physicians have waiting lists that push back treatment for months. Anderson himself treats an average of 100 patients each week. “It's a real struggle to try and help people to the degree that they need it,” he said.

Anderson encourages people to get therapy (some people who say they don’t have time for therapy, he notes, don’t realize how much more time they’ll have if they no longer suffer from lethargy and depression).

But for those who can’t, or won’t, or just want to supplement therapy, he offers a free app. “CoPow for Living in a Coronavirus World” — “CoPow” for short — aims to teach the basics of cognitive behavioral therapy to users.

Dr. Dale Anderson joins St. Louis on the Air

“With all the therapists who are out there, there still are nowhere near enough to actually make this as easily available to people on a one-to-one basis,” he explained on Friday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So I developed an app that's designed to help people to learn cognitive therapy skills.”

He added, “I call it CoPow, because I see sometimes where people feel like the word ‘therapy’ is not likable — not attractive to people — and they feel like, ‘I don't need therapy, that's for people who are weak minded.’”

Anderson hopes that even just a bit of the skills offered by cognitive behavioral therapy will help people who are struggling to get through the pandemic. He believes therapeutic techniques have never been more important.

“We need to work on doing things that help us to stay more calm and relaxed and positive, because it really does help our immune system,” he said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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